Outdoor Heat-Related Workplace Injuries in Florida
Florida isn’t called the Sunshine State for no reason. Most of the year, we as its residents, are able to enjoy year-round sunshine and beautiful weather. However, while heading to one of the endless beaches, or enjoying some of Florida’s unique flora, you may never think about the many workers who have to remain outside in the heat in pursuit of a paycheck while most of us eventually escape to the air conditioning. Once you think about it, it probably comes as no surprise that Florida has one of the highest heat-related hospitalization rates in the country according to a recent article published by the Miami Herald.
The article also included conclusions drawn by almost 100 scientific and health experts after three years of research including predictions that thousands of Floridian workers will die or get sick because of the impacts associated with climate change.
While it is unfortunate that heat-related illnesses are so common among workers in this part of the country, the silver lining is that under Florida law, a worker who is injured on the job is generally entitled to recover benefits for those injuries. This typically encompasses heat-related issues.
What is the Law?
Unfortunately, there is no law offered at either the federal or state level that explicitly protects workers from outdoor heat-related injuries although general workers’ compensation law applies and injured workers can usually recover benefits. And while guidelines for preventing these illnesses are offered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers’ statements in the Times article indicate that many employers place their business interests over the health of their workers.
What Kinds of Employees Are Probably at the Highest Risk?
Especially here in South Florida, any worker who spends extensive amounts of a workday outside risks exposure to a heat-related injury. This can include:
- Construction workers
- Farmers and other agricultural workers
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, not just when you are thirsty. Make sure that the bulk of these fluids consist of water and avoid liquids that are sugary or contain alcohol.
Dress appropriately. Wear light-colored, cool clothing that covers as much skin as possible but is made from lightweight material. Also wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Wear sunscreen. Sunburn can prevent your body from being able to cool itself off. Apply sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher at least 30 minutes before you begin working outside.
Take breaks. Make sure that you take any break offered by your employer and maximize them by finding a shady place to rest. If there is an air-conditioned break room available, this is the best option for a place to rest.
Have You or a Loved One Suffered a Heat-Related Injury at Work?
Between the beautiful weather and your desire to makes a living to support your family, you probably never thought about the potential implications of an extended period in the heat until you were injured and now you may not know where to turn. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure this out alone. The Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates have significant experience helping people like you and can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. Begin by contacting us today to schedule a free consultation.