Heat Related Illnesses on the Job

August 29, 2023
Stern & Cohen

Outdoor jobs inherently pose risks regardless of the season. However, those risks are greatly increased during the summer due to the possibility of heat stroke, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and many other ailments, including the possibility of death. As summer is nearing an end, check out some information on work heat-related injuries and fatalities. 

As stated previously, outdoor jobs during the warmer months carry a higher risk of fatalities and injuries. Some examples of outdoor jobs include, but are not limited to, construction workers, farmers, and landscapers. These are great examples of year-round, physically demanding outdoor jobs. Working a strenuous job has its own risks. However, the likelihood of injury and/or death increases significantly when you factor in a hot summer day.  


Heat-Related Illnesses 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 436 workplace fatalities reported between 2011 and 2021 that were attributed to exposure to extreme heat at work. This averages about 40 deaths per year. Many experts claim that this figure is inaccurate as it does not account for the total number of workplace deaths caused by heat exposure, not only deaths directly related to heat-related illnesses.  

In addition to the risk of developing the heat-related illnesses previously listed, employees also run the risk of developing cognitive issues that could result in serious bodily injury or death. It is more than likely that this figure may not be accurate as the heat can cause other health issues that are not specifically related to heat. These health issues include heart attacks, strokes, etc. Therefore, it is very likely that even if these health problems were caused by the heat, they were not reported in the reports as heat-related deaths. 


How Do I Know if Workers’ Compensation Applies? 

In Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation matters are governed by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the Act requires that the injury must occur in the course and scope of your employment. Let’s use an example of outdoor jobs and the heat. Say John is a construction worker building a new home in late July. He is working on the roof of a new house at noon when the sun it at its brightest and the heat index has reached 100°F. He eventually begins to experience a severe headache, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. His coworker escorted him from the roof, John informed his supervisor of what happened, and he was taken to the hospital. The hospital runs tests on John to determine the cause of his symptoms. They determined that John suffered from a heat stroke and that his symptoms were brought on by working in the heat. John might be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in a situation like this. 

As with any workers’ compensation matter, it is very important to understand that entitlement to benefits is fact-specific and there is no “one size fits all” answer to your entitlement. Thus, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss the facts of your case.  


What Can You Do to Be Prepared for the Summer Heat? 

As our summer temperatures continue to reach record highs, it is anticipated that the number of work-related heat-related injuries and fatalities will increase. Here are some tips on how to prepare to work in the summer heat:  

  • Check the forecast the night before or morning of your shift to be aware of what the weather will be during your shift.  
  • Bring an adequate amount of water.  
  • Take breaks as needed.  
  • Wear protective clothing and sunscreen. 
  • Try to stay in the shade and out of the sun as much as possible.  
  • Try not to be alone in the heat. If you begin to fall victim to cognitive issues arising from heat-related illnesses, it may be impossible for you to help yourself. 
  • And most importantly, listen to your body. Be sure to monitor how you feel and be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. 


If you or a loved one has been hurt at work, call Stern & Cohen at (215) 999-1443 or fill out a contact form below to get in contact with a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney.