Hot humid summers are the norm in Louisiana, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration advises employers to protect workers from heat stroke and other heat stress illnesses. OSHA data collected from enforcement cases between 2012 and 2013 revealed that workers who had not become acclimatized to hot working conditions faced the greatest risk of heat illnesses.
Acclimatization refers to the physical process of a person becoming used to exertion in the heat. A slowly rising workload helps a worker physically adapt to the heat. The time needed to accomplish this varies by person. Generally, an employee new to hot conditions or one who has been away from work for a week or more needs time to acclimatize. According to OSHA, the process takes about 14 days but sometimes longer.
Workers not given time to get used to working in heat and humidity were most at risk for heat stress and even death, the administration reported. Employers can reduce the chance of workers suffering from heat illnesses by monitoring the heat, providing frequent water breaks, slowly increasing workloads, providing shade and teaching everyone the symptoms of heat stress so they can catch warning signs early.
When a worker does experience heat stress, the person may need a day off or, in severe cases, emergency medical attention. Because a hot work site can cause a heat-stress illness, medical care and time off should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Sometimes a worker chooses to consult with an attorney about the benefits that insurance is supposed to provide. An attorney might also help the worker file a claim and negotiate with the insurance company for an adequate settlement. The employee does not have to prove any negligence on an employer’s part to collect benefits.