Among workers in Maryland, even those who are aware of many of the workplace hazards they need to be careful about might not know the scope of heat-related injuries in the workplace. In part, this may be due to the fact that the extent of these injuries are not correctly reported and recorded.
Counting heat-related accidents
A study published in 2021 found that while such heat-related injuries as heat stroke and dehydration are tracked by both state and federal agencies, other accidents that occur as a result of the heat are not. For example, if a person suffers a fall as a result of a heat-related illness and is injured in the fall, that is not counted.
Large discrepancy found
The study examined workplace injuries in California. It found a huge discrepancy in the number of injuries recorded and the actual number of injuries when the definition of a heat-related injury was expanded. While the state recorded only about 60 heat-related injuries a year, the study found that from 2001 to 2018, the number was around 24,800 annually.
Danger to workers
Heat can cause fatigue and impair judgment, leading to a work accident. The study found that as the temperature rises from the 60s into the 80s and 90s, the risk of injury rises as well. While outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to heat-related injury and illness, indoor workers are as well, particularly those in manufacturing and other industries where the environment may not be climate-controlled.
With temperatures rising, heat issues are likely to continue to be a problem for both workers and employers in the years ahead. Access to water and shade can mitigate some of these effects. However, workers who are injured on the job should also be aware of their rights and their eligibility for workers’ compensation and any other remedies.