Recent incidents have shown that sometimes, it is just too hot to work. If you grew up in Central or South America, that would be obvious to you. Many jobs there start early to take advantage of the cool mornings, then take a siesta during the hottest part of the day. Yet, most U.S. employers do not think like this.
Heat can harm workers directly by raising the body temperature to the point where something fails. Or heat can cause indirect harm, exhausting people mentally so they make poor decisions that cause injuries or death.
Why aren’t there more protections against heat-related injuries?
Some states have taken action to prevent employers from forcing workers to work outside in extreme heat. Yet, many, including Florida, have no such rules in place. The three times that a group of Florida legislators tried to pass legislation on the issue, others blocked it.
It is not only outside work you need to worry about in hot weather. Sometimes it can be too hot to work indoors, especially if the ventilation or air-conditioning system malfunctions. Regardless of where you work, your employer is obliged to ensure safe working conditions.
What should employers do to prevent heat-related issues?
Employers need to monitor employers when the temperatures soar. Shade and a constant supply of water are two essentials. Yet, having them there is not enough. You need to be able to use them. Amazon has faced criticism for not allowing its workers time to grab a drink of water. It is unlikely to be the only employer guilty of this.
Sometimes the best thing an employer can do is learn from our neighbors to the south and accept that sometimes, it is too hot to work. If you suffer a heat-related injury because your employer insisted that work must go on, you may need to claim worker’s compensation benefits.