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The link between rising temperatures and work injuries

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2021 | Workplace Injuries |

Many people in North Carolina think of summer as a time for fun outdoor activities, like swimming and running around with friends. Summertime reality tends to be different for those who have jobs and are expected to continue working throughout the year’s hottest months. As temperatures rise, experts expect that heat related work injuries will become a bigger problem.

In fact, you might not even realize that heat injuries are already a growing problem for a number of workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that more than 15 million people are required to be outdoors at least some of the time at their jobs. Unfortunately, heat injuries and illnesses are not limited to only outdoor workers.

What are heat related injuries?

Overheating can cause serious harm to people’s bodies. If you work outdoors or in a high temperature indoor environment, you could be at risk for developing something like heat exhaustion, symptoms of which include nausea, dizziness and fainting. Heat is responsible for more than just heat illnesses though, as high temperatures are also associated with an increase in other work injuries like:

  • Machinery wounds
  • Industrial vehicle collisions
  • Scaffolding falls

Experts looked at the difference in accident risk depending on temperature and found that hotter days led to more injuries. When the temperature ranges from 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, there is around a 7% increase in injuries compared to days in the 60s. That risk increase jumps to as much as 15% when the temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat affects your thinking

If you have ever felt exhausted or like you could not think straight when you were very hot, you are not alone. Cognitive ability declines when it gets too hot, and fatigue increases. Working in this condition is not only difficult but is also dangerous.

Productivity also goes down as heat goes up. One study found that worker productivity in outdoor workers decreases by 4% for every degree increase above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor worker productivity decreases an average of 2% per degree over 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor workers are not immune

Most offices and other indoor workplaces are air conditioned. However, cooling is not necessarily evenly distributed, and someone positioned near a window could be working at a much higher temperature than someone a few feet away. Many workplaces also allow temperatures to increase indoors during summer in an effort to save energy and money.

Now that you understand just how dangerous working in the heat can be, you might also need to understand just how important it is to take time off work to recover after a serious injury. Heading back before you are ready — especially if temperatures are high — can lead to further injury. If you are worried about your finances, you should know that you may be able to secure compensation for work injuries through North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system.