Heat Illness: What Are Workers’ Rights?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently brought back its heat illness prevention campaign and stressed the importance of workers who are out in the heat each day obtaining rest, shade, and water on a regular basis.
Many workers in Florida are exposed to heat–related illness every day, whether they work in construction, farm work, landscaping, oil and gas, utilities, mining, or other industries. If you work outside here in Florida, it is important to know your rights. In fact, Florida recorded its hottest average temperatures for the first few months of 2017 since 1895.
Types of Heat-Related Illnesses
There are three main types of heat-related illnesses:
- Heat cramps: painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after exercise and sweating in high heat;
- Heat exhaustion: a loss of water and salt in extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluids and salt. Symptoms include muscle cramps, a few over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, weakness, anxiety, and similar symptoms; and
- Heat stroke: the most severe form of heat illness; when the body’s system is overwhelmed by excessive heat, it could be life-threatening. Symptoms include a temperature over 104 degrees, high fever, dry skin, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, agitation, lethargy, and sometimes seizure, coma, and death are possible.
Employer Responsibilities & Workers’ Rights
Labor law provides you with specific protections when it comes to avoiding heat-related illnesses. You have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, and your employer has the obligation to provide that work environment. OSHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for upholding their rights under the law.
Farm worker Suits Over Heat-Related Deaths
In June 2015, the Cal-OSHA agreed to refocus its enforcement of heat-related regulations covering farm workers and make complaints more accessible to the public as a result of settling two lawsuits brought on behalf of farm workers and the United Farm Workers union accusing the agency of systematically neglecting its duty to enforce a 2005 law protecting outdoor workers from heat exposure.
In order to protect yourself:
- Avoid the sun between 10am and 2pm;
- Drink plenty of fluids, including water and electrolytes;
- Wear cool, light clothing;
- Use hats and sunscreen;
- Acclimate yourself slowly to the heat (instead of all at once)
Florida Labor Law Attorneys
If you are concerned that your employer is not following OSHA’s standards, you can file a complaint and have your workplace inspected. And if you have already suffered from an injury or occupational illness due to heat, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In order to obtain a free consultation with a Florida workers’ rights attorney, contact the office of Robert Norell today and find out how we can help.