Weather is a major contributing factor in many workplace accidents. Employers and employees should take certain precautions when working outdoors to reduce the risk of injury and illness related to the weather.
Safety Hazards in Hot Weather
Employees that work in hot environments or who are exposed to extreme heat risk numerous illnesses and injuries.
This includes people that work in such industries as:
- mining; and
- boiler rooms.
Without adequate safety precautions, these workers face dangers such as heat: cramps, stroke, and exhaustion. This can lead to some serious complications including headaches, dizziness, and hallucinations. If not addressed immediately, these medical issues can result in death or permanent disability.
Not only can hot weather lead to illness, but it can lead to other safety risks in the workplace. For instance, a worker’s palms may get extremely sweaty, leading to slippage on equipment. Likewise, dizziness from the heat can lead to dangerous slip and fall injuries. Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can also create a risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Safety Hazards in Cold Weather
Cold weather can be just as dangerous as hot weather, and some workers face harsh cold conditions on a regular basis. Those who work outdoors or in poorly insulated buildings risk health dangers when the temperature drops, and are susceptible to various potential hazards such as icy, slippery areas.
When employees work in very cold temperatures, they are susceptible to health dangers such as:
- trench foot; and
- immersion hypothermia.
Cold temperatures can affect brain function, as well, and impair thinking and decision making, which further increases the risks of accidents.
Not only can cold weather directly endanger a worker’s health, but it can cause a host of dangerous conditions that make the workplace a breeding ground for accidents, particularly slip and falls on icy or wet surfaces.
Preventing Workplace Accidents: Employers’ Responsibilities
While no workplace can ever be completely accident-proof, employers have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to minimize risks for employees.
This means they should take safety precautions such as:
- clearing ice and snow when necessary;
- providing access to water in hot conditions;
- allowing for periodic respites from harsh conditions;
- preparing the work vehicles for weather conditions;
- allowing workers to take shelter in dangerous weather such as lightning storms; and
- closing off any dangerous areas (e.g., icy stairwells).
Whether or not the employer was negligent in failing to prevent a work accident, workers are entitled to seek workers’ compensation benefits if injured because of weather-related conditions.
Discussing Your Accident with a Work Injury Attorney
Workers injured on the job or who experience a health issue because of weather-related conditions at work should consult a work injury attorney to go over the claim and options to recover workers’ compensation benefits.
Our firm is dedicated to helping workers and their families obtain fair compensation for their work-related injuries. Contact Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines today for a FREE consultation at (515) 440-2852.