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The risks of heat stress in construction

While exposure to the sun can be good for you in small doses, extended periods under a sweltering afternoon sun can be brutal to your body. No one is more at risk from overexposure to the sun and heat than workers whose jobs take them outdoors, such as construction workers.

Construction workers are at high risk of heat stress. It may not sound as dangerous as other construction hazards, but heat stress can be fatal.

What is heat stress?

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. This condition can lead to serious health issues, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, nausea, or vomiting.

If untreated, this can escalate to heat stroke, characterized by high body temperatures, hot, red, dry, or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness.

Although it’s a risk that can affect anyone exposed to the elements, the following individuals are more likely to suffer heat stress:

  • Persons aged 65 or older
  • Overweight individuals
  • Persons with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Persons who take medications that make them susceptible to heat stress

Apart from overexposure to the sun, hot environments such as indoor locations that lack ventilation may also induce heat stress.

How workers’ comp can help

When heat stress does lead to injury or illness, California workers’ compensation can help affected workers. Under state labor laws, workers’ comp covers any injury or illness arising from and during employment. This means construction workers may receive workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These benefits include medical treatment costs, temporary disability benefits if the worker needs time off to recover, and even permanent disability benefits in severe cases.

However, workers’ compensation claims aren’t always approved automatically. An employer may argue that your claim for heat stress isn’t work-related. If this happens, you can still appeal the denial. A legal professional with workers’ comp experience can walk you through the appeal process and fight for your right to compensation.