Vermonters are lucky that our summers are not as muggy as those in Florida or Louisiana. Nonetheless, temperatures can reach into the 90s, and the temperature inside businesses and factories can climb even higher. Workers must take care of themselves so that they do not suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or other heat-related injuries.
Larson & Gallivan Law represents injured workers as they seek compensation for an on-the-job injury. When businesses fail to have adequate air conditioning or other climate control systems, and workers can suffer injury or illness due to excess heat.
The primary method of regulating temperature is to sweat. As the sweat evaporates, it cools the skin and the body. However, exertion, sunlight, and humidity can make it difficult for the body to cool sufficiently, and you might begin to suffer from a heat-related illness:
- Heat exhaustion—you can suffer this injury when your body loses too much water and salt. You can experience headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and heavy sweating.
- Heat syncope—this condition involves fainting or dizziness due to excess heat.
- Heat cramps—a person can experience painful cramps when they lose too much salt.
- Heat rash—a painful rash develops that looks like clusters of pimples due to excessive sweating.
- Heat stroke—the body cannot regulate temperature anymore, and core temperature rises rapidly, leading to seizures, vomiting, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
If you experience light-headedness, a racing pulse, or weakness during hot weather, then you should take immediate action. You probably are too hot.
How to Cool Down
We recommend taking the following steps to cool yourself down:
- Stop working. Exertion increases body temperature, so stop moving.
- Get out of the sun and into the shade if you work outdoors.
- Move closer to air conditioning, if available, or using a fan to move air around.
- Loosen your clothing to allow sweat to evaporate and limit the formation of heat rash.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Plain water is fine, but you can also have Gatorade or a similar drink that replaces electrolytes.
- If you feel your symptoms getting worse, then you should immediately call an ambulance or have someone take you to the hospital. Don’t drive yourself, since you could easily pass out and get into a wreck.
Someone who experiences vomiting should also call an ambulance immediately. That is a serious condition.
How Employers Make Heat Stress Worse
Sadly, many employers make work conditions intolerable during the summer months. Installing air conditioning is expensive, and some buildings are not designed for large-scale climate control systems, like centralized air. Some employers also schedule the most strenuous jobs during peak heat in the afternoon.
Any worker at high-risk of heat stroke—such as someone working outside or in a plant or factory—should be given regular rest to minimize the risk of overheating. An employer should also schedule work, if at all possible, so that people are not out during the hottest part of the day. Instead, they might do more work early in the day before temperatures peak.
According to NPR, 348 people died of heat-related injuries from 2010 to 2020. Fatalities were most common when temps reached into the 90s. Non-fatal injuries are even more common.
There is also a risk that someone suffering from heat stress will make some mistake or pass out. This can lead to:
- Falls. A worker could fall off a ladder or simply fall in an office and strike their head against a desk. Falls lead to many traumatic injuries, such as fractures, concussions, and back injuries.
- Motor vehicle accidents. An overheated worker could become disorientated and stumble into traffic, getting struck by a vehicle in the process. Workers who drive without air conditioning are also at risk of a crash.
- Equipment failures. Overheated workers can also make poor decisions and end up hurting themselves when they use tools or equipment improperly. This type of injury really is the fault of heat stress.
Please seek medical attention for any injury. Many injured workers suffering from heat stress cannot think clearly, so they cannot call an ambulance on their own. It’s up to concerned coworkers to look out for each other in the blazing heat.
Your Rights to Compensation
Heat-related injuries are covered by workers’ compensation in Vermont. If you are injured while working, then you probably qualify. You are also covered if you suffered an injury in a fall or accident caused by heat stress.
Workers are sometimes denied benefits for various reasons, such as an insurer believing you intentionally injured yourself or were intoxicated. We can help you seek benefits. Sometimes insurers look critically at heat-related injuries. They might argue your heat stroke was temporary, so you should have been back at work the next day. If your doctor advises you to stay out of work, be sure to get that in writing and give to your employer.
You should not have to pay to receive medical care for heat stress or any resulting injury, like a fracture or concussion from a fall. If you cannot work, you should also receive disability benefits until you improve enough to go back into work. We can help bring an appeal if you were denied benefits.
Contact Us for Information
Larson & Gallivan has helped many workers navigate the workers’ compensation system in Vermont. We know how confusing everything can be, and how frustrating it is to have an insurer deny benefits when you need them the most. Workers deserve a safe environment, especially during the summer when the temperatures are the highest. Contact our law firm to schedule a consultation to discuss your injury.