Jul 19, 2021
A new study in California shows that workplace injuries caused by high temperatures are many times those officially reported: Roughly 20,000 more injuries per year in California alone.
These on-the-job injuries officially caused by things like falling, workplace vehicle collisions and machinery accidents occur both outside and inside.
On days when the temperature was 85 to 90 degrees, the rate of injuries, regardless of the officially recorded cause, was 5 to 7% higher than on 60-to-70-degree days. Days over 100 degrees saw injury rates 10 to 15% higher.
Heat-related accidents hit the lowest-paid workers the most. The lowest 20% of workers suffer five times the number of heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%, reflecting the more dangerous nature of their work on average. Men are three times as likely to have more injuries than women. And younger workers are more likely than older workers to be hurt.
The California study also showed that a few simple measures could reduce the elevated number of heat-related injuries. In 2005, California started requiring employers to provide outside workers with water, shade and rest breaks on days hotter than 95 degrees. Heat-related injuries went down by one-third.
Unless global warming is combatted, halted and ultimately reversed, more and more workers are going to be injured and sometimes die on their jobs. But right now, on-the-job heat-related injuries can clearly be reduced if workers force their bosses to provide protection for them on hot days.