• Leitner Varughese

Construction Work and Heat Exposure Injuries



Unlike many other types of work, jobs in the construction industry often must be performed outdoors. In the winter, outdoor work comes with a wide variety of risks, but in the summer, heat exhaustion and heat-related injuries can be a serious problem. A recent NPR report explained that abnormally high temperatures are resulting in construction worker fatalities across the country and in various industries due to a lack of protections. For construction workers who are spending significant amounts of time in the summer heat and humidity of New York, heat exhaustion and other heat-related injuries and illnesses can be debilitating and, in some cases, deadly. In short, heat exposure or heat stress in construction is common, and it is critical for workers and employers in New York to understand appropriate safety protocols and ways of seeking compensation for construction site injuries.

Jobs Can Lead to Heat Stress, Heat Strain, and Heat-Related Illnesses

Hot temperatures can cause a variety of problems for workers, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores that heat-related illnesses (or HRIs) are a common issue for construction workers. There are different types of heat-related illnesses, including those associated with heat stress and those linked to heat strain. What is the difference between heat stress and heat strain?

As the CDC explains, “heat stress is the combination of a worker’s exposure to heat from physical activity, environmental factors, and their clothing which results in an increase in the body’s heat storage, known as the net heat load.” Differently, heat strain is “the physiological response to heat stress when the body tries to increase heat loss to the environment in order to maintain a stable body temperature.” Heat stress and heat strain, therefore, can lead to many different kinds of heat-related illnesses, including but not limited to the following:

● Heat stroke;

● Heat exhaustion;

● Fainting;

● Heat cramps; and

● Heat rash.

Causes of Heat-Related Illnesses in the Construction Industry

Why is the construction industry so dangerous when it comes to heat-related illnesses? The CDC clarifies that there are several different reasons. First, “construction work can be very labor intensive, which can cause the body to generate excessive heat within the body.” Next, construction workers typically “work outdoors during the hottest times of the year,” and even when construction work is being done indoors, it can take place in “non-climate-controlled spaces, such as attics and crawl spaces, or in direct sunlight on roofs, roadways, and runways.” There are also often other additional sources of heat on construction sites that can cause injuries in addition to environmental factors.

Employers should provide appropriate safety equipment and take steps to ensure that construction workers are safe. If employers are negligent in failing to provide safe working conditions, injured construction workers may be able to sue under New York Labor Law.

Contact a New York Construction Accident Lawyer

Do you have questions about seeking compensation for a heat-related illness sustained while working on a construction site? Our experienced New York construction accident attorneys can discuss your options with you today, including seeking workers’ compensation benefits or the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a negligent employer under New York Labor Law. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC for more information.

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