Every summer, construction workers and other people who must work outdoors in the Knoxville heat suffer heat-related injuries like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, heat illness caused 2,830 serious occupational injuries and illnesses and 37 deaths. But these numbers might be misleadingly low, according to a news report.
The Guardian cites a new study that alleges government agencies that track work injuries may have been undercounting heat-related incidents for years. Researchers studied California workers’ compensation claims from 2011 to 2018 and found that the authorities’ definition of a “heat-related” injury may be overly narrow.
What is a heat-related injury?
For example, the paper claims, when a worker standing on a ladder becomes dizzy from sun exposure, falls off, and hurts himself, California does not consider that a heat-related work injury. By examining workers’ comp claims and comparing the dates of those injuries with the weather recorded for those days, the researchers found that heat-related injuries may be much higher than reported. California reports about 60 heat-related injuries per year. But the paper claims there were about 24,800 such injuries each year from 2001 – 2018.
They based this finding on an apparent correlation between hot days and work injuries. On days when the temperature was between 80F and 85F, injuries went up 3.5 percent compared with days in the 60s. Days with highs in the low- to mid-90s had seven percent more injuries.
A heat illness can directly put your life at risk through symptoms. It can also indirectly harm you by causing a fall or injury from a power tool or vehicle. Either way, the resulting pain and disability could force you out of work for weeks, if not months or years. Workers’ compensation can help you make ends meet while you recover.