Work accidents increase with excessive heat: WCRI report

The probability of work-related accidents increases 5% to 6% when temperatures rise above 90 degrees, and the effect of workplace heat is stronger in the southern U.S. and in the construction industry, according to a report released Thursday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

The report, “Impact of Excessive Heat on the Frequency of Work-Related Injuries,” used workers compensation claim data from 2016 to 2021 across 24 states.

Researchers looked at work injuries caused by direct and indirect heat exposure. Direct heat exposure involves the effect of heat on a worker’s body leading to heat exhaustion or other issues. Indirect exposure involves cases where workers suffer injuries from accidents such as falling off ladders when heat impairs cognitive or motor functions.

“It is important to note that workers can adapt, or acclimatize, to excessive heat, which could reduce the incidence of heat-related work accidents,” the report states.

Despite acclimatization, researchers still recommend that employers implement greater safety protections for employees who work in hot temperatures.

Excessive workplace heat can also exacerbate health problems such as asthma, kidney failure and heart disease, for those employees who already suffer from such conditions, the report states.

Injured worker claim frequency vary “substantially” between industry and occupation, the report states.

Researchers also examined the connection between heat exposure and traumatic injuries, finding that the risk for traumatic injuries increases in cases of external heat exposure and internal heat generated by physical exertion.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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