Construction workers exposed to high temperatures should be protected
Construction workers in New York City often work outdoors in dangerous, hot conditions. And when they do, heat illness can occur, resulting in a construction accident, serious injury, or even death due to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Construction workers should be aware of the risks they face at job sites, especially during the warmer, summer months in New York. That's one reason why the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently launched an educational campaign designed to make construction workers and companies more aware of heat hazards on the job site.
As part of the campaign, OSHA stated it will send inspectors to certain high-risk heat hazard workplaces – including construction sites – this summer on days when temperatures rise about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in an effort to “keep workers safe on the job.”
How common is heat stroke at work?
Despite longstanding warnings about the hazards of working in dangerously hot conditions, heat illness, heat stress, heat stroke, and other serious heat-related injuries have consistently increased each year for decades. That's according to U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who spoke about the dangers of heat hazards at a recent OSHA event.
“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s,” Walsh said via an OSHA press release. “These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons, or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers.”
In 2019, there were 43 work-related heat deaths, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Construction-related work “had 13 times the risk of heat-related deaths than the average annual heat-related workplace fatality rate in all other industries,” according to a recent Equipment World article about the OSHA heat hazard educational campaign.
The warning signs of heat exhaustion
Construction companies need to pay close attention to possible warning signs of heat illness or stress caused by extreme heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can cover a wide range, including:
- Excessively dry skin
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle cramps
Keep in mind that even on days that aren’t hot, heat-related injuries can occur, especially if you're working in direct sunlight, confined spaces, or wearing heavy equipment.
How to prevent heat illness
There are many precautionary steps construction companies can take to prevent heat illness or other heat-related injuries, such as:
- Make sure construction workers have enough water, especially on days when the temperature rises about 80 degrees.
- Educate construction workers about the dangers of extreme heat.
- Monitor construction workers throughout the day and check in with them to make sure they’re okay.
- Slowly ease new workers into hazardous, hot weather conditions. This may involve starting work earlier or later to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- Have construction workers wear body monitoring devices that measure their body temperature and heart rate.
- Provide body cooling stations at construction sites.
These are just some of the steps construction companies should consider taking to prevent heat-related injuries and illnesses on the job. Other steps may be helpful and should be considered depending on the circumstances of the construction project.
Review your options with an experienced construction accident lawyer
If you're a construction worker in New York who developed a heat illness while on the job, it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to get a clear understanding of your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to compensation, but the process is complex, and certain legal deadlines apply. The sooner you let a lawyer review the details of your case, the better.
At Keogh Crispi, P.C., our dedicated legal team knows what it takes to build winning cases in New York and can fight for the compensation you're entitled to.
Learn more about how we can help you. Contact our law firm and schedule a free consultation with an experienced New York City construction accident lawyer. Our office is located in Manhattan and we would be honored to talk to you about your potential legal case.