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Workers’ compensation may soon cover heat-related issues

Heat is an ongoing challenge for California’s agricultural workers. These workers’ jobs are contingent on being in the elements. Extreme heat can cause them health problems and lead to injuries that should warrant workers’ compensation benefits. However, these workers sometimes have trouble receiving workers’ compensation benefits. A new proposal would address that.

Bill focuses on heat-related illnesses

A recent bill in the California State Senate could help workers afflicted with health problems and injuries stemming from the heat. It is specifically meant to help those in the agriculture industry who have long felt abandoned by limits on workers’ compensation laws.

The law is still being debated. If it becomes law, it would subtly shift the burden of proof from the worker to the employer. The key is whether the employer had adhered to standards that have been set to protect these workers from heat-related illnesses.

Farm workers are often immigrants who might be fearful of losing the job or facing other sanctions for complaining about not getting the proper equipment or being asked to work in extreme temperatures.

As the law stands, employers need to have a specific plan to address the heat with workers allowed some time in the shade and to be given water. They are also required to have training to respond to heat-related emergencies. Workers must receive sufficient rest time.

If the new measure becomes law, the changes would compel employers to be more vigilant about their workers being stationed in the heat and try to avoid the dangers entirely. A concern has long been the power employers have over workers and that workers might be reluctant to aggressively pursue benefits even when clearly warranted.

Given the growing prevalence of heat-related challenges workers are facing, it is no surprise this is coming to the forefront. The most recent numbers that have been analyzed in depth from the Centers for Disease Control say that there were nearly 1,700 worker deaths due to heat in 2022.

Workers need to understand their rights

People who have been injured or gotten ill on the job will have myriad concerns. Financially, they will face the prospect of not being able to work and meet their needs. They will need medical treatment and perhaps long-term care. Workers’ compensation benefits are in place to help people who are in this situation, but the laws are in constant need to adaptation to address everyone’s circumstances.

People in the agriculture industry who have suffered a negative impact from their duties on the job must be cognizant of how the law could be changed to help them. There might still be disagreements over their issues and obstacles to getting the benefits they need. In these cases, being fully apprised of the legal options and knowing how to receive and maximize workers’ compensation benefits is a priority.