Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.
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Preparing for the NYC Heat Wave: Protecting Construction Workers from Heat Illness

employers are liable for employees heat illnessesAs construction accident lawyers in New York City, we are deeply concerned about the impact of the upcoming heat wave on our city’s construction workers. The extreme heat expected this week poses a serious threat to the health and safety of those working on construction sites. A previous¬† investigation by “the City” indicates that when the temperature hits 85 degrees, workers in New York City are 7% more likely to be injured on the job. At 95 degrees, the likelihood of an accident goes up by one more point, to 8%.

Alarmingly, nearly 75% of workers who die from heat-related causes do so within their first week on the job

Heat is a well-known occupational hazard that can cause severe or even fatal illnesses if workers are not provided with the necessary protections and training. Each year, thousands of workers fall ill due to occupational heat exposure, and tragically, many of these cases result in death. New employees, who have not yet acclimated to working in high temperatures, are particularly vulnerable.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of their workers, especially during extreme weather conditions. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), every worker has the right to a safe and healthful workplace. This includes protection from heat hazards. Employers must take proactive measures to mitigate the risks associated with high temperatures, such as:

  1. Providing Adequate Hydration and Breaks: Employers should supply cool water and mandate regular rest breaks. Workers need access to shaded or cool rest areas to recover from heat exposure.
  2. Gradual Acclimatization: New or returning employees should be allowed to gradually adjust to working in hot conditions. This process should include training on recognizing and responding to signs of heat illness.
  3. Emergency Planning and Monitoring: Employers must train employees on heat illness prevention and ensure that they know how to act immediately if they or a coworker show symptoms of heat-related illness.

Worker Rights and OSHA Enforcement

Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation. If they believe their employer is not following OSHA standards or is otherwise compromising their safety, they can file a confidential complaint with OSHA. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who exercise this right.

In April 2022, OSHA initiated a National Emphasis Program on heat, focusing enforcement efforts in areas and industries where workers are most at risk. This includes increased inspections and the use of enforcement tools to protect workers from hazardous heat conditions. Additionally, OSHA is working towards establishing a proposed standard on heat illness prevention for both indoor and outdoor workers.

If you want to learn more about this program, the Center for Research, Construction and Training is hosting a free webinar this Wednesday or you can also visit the OSHA website.

If you or someone you know has been affected by heat-related illness due to employer negligence, do not hesitate to contact our office for legal assistance. Together, we can ensure that every worker has a safe and healthy work environment, even in the face of extreme weather conditions.