Although much of the nation has been slammed with snow and freezing temperatures this winter, the last several summers have also been extreme. Here in California, a large number of workers suffer heat-related injuries every summer, and occasionally those injuries actually result in death.
California has more agricultural workers than any other state, and heat illness among agricultural workers happens at a rate three times higher than all of California’s other industries combined. While heat-related incidents have dropped in recent years as most employers are now in compliance with heat illness regulations, non-compliance is costly; non-compliant California businesses spent more than $500,000 dollars on heat-related injuries in 2011. Worse yet, while it’s rare, heat-related injuries can be deadly. In 2005, a record twelve people died from heat-related illnesses caused by workplace conditions.
The incentive for employers to take adequate measures is growing. In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a measure that would have required agricultural employers to provide access to water within ten feet of all employees. Employers violating shade and water requirements could have been charged with criminal offenses had the measure not been vetoed. Similar measures to improve agricultural working conditions are certain to be proposed in upcoming sessions of the California State Assembly.
Winter is the perfect time for employers to assess their heat illness prevention plans to ensure that employees are safe this summer. If you have suffered a workplace injury that prevents you from working, you are probably eligible to receive workers’ compensation. An experienced workers compensation attorney can assess your situation, provide sound legal advice, and if necessary represent you in court. The help of a good workers’ compensation lawyer is imperative if you want to guarantee your rights and your rightful compensation. If you’ve been injured at work, talk with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney right away.