We’ve come a long way since the days of sweatshops, but don’t tell that to the millions of U.S. outdoor workers who brave the sweltering summer heat on the job.
Hotter days mean more cases of heatstroke and injuries from falling down or mishandling machinery. Some workers — including those over 65 who are overweight and have underlying conditions — are the most susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
New Research on Injuries from Extreme Heat
Recent research published by the University of Southern California, San Diego, suggests soaring temperatures in that state alone led to an additional 20,000 workplace injuries each year or 360,000 extra injuries over an 18-year period. As a comparison, this is roughly eleven times the number of workplace concussions and at least nineteen times the annual number of workplace injuries caused by extreme temperatures.
The findings were made public in mid-July during a hearing by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, in Washington. One message which the researchers delivered to lawmakers is that governments should do more to reduce emissions of green gases to control temperature increases. In the meantime, workers need more protection from the effects of torrid heat.
OSHA Stake in Preventing Heat Illness
It should be noted than more than 25 states have adopted OSHA-approved plans for compliance with and enforcement of “heat illness” prevention strategies. Failure to comply can result in a lawsuit if workers become injured as a result of heat illness.
Among their general guidelines are permitting worker to drink cool water at liberty, establishing provisions for a work/rest regimen, and developing training and screening programs to address overheating on the job.
In Illinois, officials at the state Department of Labor advise people who work outdoors to consider how hazardous intense heat can be. Employees and their supervisors should be trained to recognize heat-related illnesses and how to respond in an emergency.