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Can I Get Worker's Comp For Heat Stroke?

The official first day of summer is only four days away, but it's already been hot, hot, hot.

For those of you lucky enough to work in a comfortable air conditioned room, be grateful. For people who have to work outside, be careful! Previously, we wrote about getting workers' compensation for skin cancer when you work outside. However, a more immediate danger lurks when the temperature rises, heat stress and heat stroke.

If you get heat stroke while working outdoors, can you get workers' compensation?

Workers' Compensation Eligibility

As a general rule, you can get workers' compensation for most work related injuries. To be considered work related, an injury must be caused by or aggravated by your work duties or the condition of your workplace.

To get workers' compensation for heat stroke, you need to prove that having to work outside in the heat was what caused your injury. Sometimes, people can get heart attacks triggered by heat, or obese people are more susceptible to heat stroke. Employers will try to argue that the heat stroke was caused by preexisting conditions and is not work related. However, you can still get workers' compensation if a work condition aggravated your preexisting condition causing you a new injury.

Protections for Employees

Heat stroke is such a prevalent injury among outdoor workers that several states have laws requiring employers to take certain steps to protect employees from heat stroke.

Washington

Washington's General Occupational Health Standards has a set of Outdoor Heat Exposure rules applicable from May 1 through September 30 of every year. These laws require:

  • Heat Exposure Safety -- Employers must have a written outdoor heat exposure safety program. Employers must also provide training on environmental factors and personal factors that cause heat stroke, recognition of symptoms of heat stroke, and tips for preventing heat stroke.
  • Water -- Employers must provide enough water to keep employees hydrated. Federal OSHA recommends one quart of water per employee per hour. Employers must also encourage employees to take breaks to drink water and allow time to drink at least one quart per hour.
  • Treatment -- If employees show signs of heat stroke or other heat related illness, employers must relieve employee from duty and provide shade, water, or other means to reduce body temperature.

Other states such as Texas and California also have similar rules. California even requires employers to provide sufficient amounts of shade where employees can rest for at least 5 minutes. Check your state's laws for similar requirements.

If you've suffered a heat stroke or other heat-related illness at work, consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney for help filing a claim.

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