Study Shows Heat Injuries in the U.S. are found to be Undercounted

Study Shows Heat Injuries in the U.S. are found to be Undercounted

Thousands of heat injuries across the country went unaccounted for.

New research shows that government agencies are most likely significantly undercounting the number of workplace injuries caused by extreme heat. Federal and state labor departments keep track of heat-related injuries, which include aspects of dehydration and heat strokes. However, if a worker falls from a ladder due to heat conditions, it is usually not categorized as a heat related injury. Research published shows when those injuries are addressed, the toll of heat on U.S. workers is “orders of magnitude higher” than the official counts. In California, the state’s occupational safety division only counts about 60 heat-related injuries annually. The research, however, estimates that between 2001 and 2018, the number of heat-related injuries was around 24,800 each year.

“We expected heat would have impacts on other types of injuries, but the magnitude was surprising,” said A Patrick Behrer, who co-wrote the working paper with R Jisung Park and Nora Pankratz.

California law was taken advantage of which requires all employers to have workers compensation insurance, paying workers when they are injured at work. From 2001 to 2018, the researchers analyzed 11.6 million claims in the state, combining it with local weather data. This was done in order to gain an understanding of how many injuries can be attributed to extreme heat. What was found was that on days between 80- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit, a worker’s risk of injury increases by around 3.5 percent compared to a day in the 60s. On a day between 90- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, the injury risk increases by about seven percent.

“I see a lot of people get injured because they’re working in the sun and get fatigued,” said Guillermo Oseguera, a 49-year-old boilermaker who works in Los Angeles. “You get frustrated because you’re hot. But nobody is going to come and do the job for you.”

According to an article, it takes a larger toll on low-wage workers, where the jobs tend to be more dangerous than high-wage workers. It is also found that indoor workers, such as those in manufacturing, are more likely to be injured in hot weather because they do not work in temperature-controlled environments.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

Download Center

  • The Ultimate Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping

    When it comes to OSHA recordkeeping, there are always questions regarding the requirements and in and outs. This guide is here to help!

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Thinking of getting an online safety training solution at work but not sure how to evaluate different solutions and find the one that's best for your company? Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • SDS Software Buyer's Guide

    Whether this is your first time shopping for online SDS software or you’re upgrading from a legacy solution, this guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that works best for you and your company.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Vector Solutions

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - November December 2021

    November December 2021

    Featuring:

    • GAS DETECTION
      How to Streamline Gas Detector Maintenance
    • OSHA TOP 10
      OSHA's Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards for FY 2021
    • PROTECTIVE APPAREL
      How PPE Can Help You Deal with the Harsh Condition of Winter
    • HEARING PROTECTION
      Tackling Hearing Protection in the Workplace
    View This Issue