Overheated at Work. Can I Get Workers’ Compensation?

Here’s a question from one of our readers: “I overheated while working outdoors in this weather and got heat stroke. Can I get workers’ compensation benefits for this?”

Answer: YES! If you become overheated and sick at work, you should qualify for workers’ comp benefits. But if your employer disagrees, we can help you get a free consultation with a local workers’ comp attorney. This consultation can take as little as 15 minutes, and it only requires a phone call.

Is It an OSHA Violation to Work in the Heat? What if You’re Required to Work Outdoors and Become Overheated?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to protect workers from heat-related illness:

“Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that ‘is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.’ This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.”

Most states follow OSHA-approved heat standards for employees. California, Minnesota, and Washington have additional heat exposure standards to protect workers from becoming overheated. Contact your state’s workers’ comp officials through the Department of Labor to learn about heat-related workers’ comp claims in your workplace.

Should I Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?

Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be complex. Working with an expert makes it easier so you can concentrate on feeling better. Check out the following resources:

Who Is Most at Risk for Heat-Related Illness at Work?

Anyone can experience negative health effects due to a heat-related illness. However, your risk is higher if you:

  • Are older, overweight, or pregnant
  • Aren’t properly acclimated (see below)
  • Don’t stay sufficiently hydrated
  • Have a pre-existing condition such as lung or heart disease
  • Perform heavy physical labor
  • Take medications that either dehydrate you or increase your sensitivity to heat or sunlight
  • Wear heavy or waterproof clothing
  • Work in the direct sun and/or high humidity

OSHA data show you’re more likely to get a heat-related illness when you work in one of these industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Bakeries and kitchens
  • Construction, especially, road, roofing, and other work that usually occurs outdoors
  • Delivery and distribution
  • Electrical utilities
  • Fire services
  • Iron and steel mills
  • Landscaping
  • Laundry
  • Manufacturing
  • Oil and gas well operations

Pro Tip: Find out the rules about workers’ compensation for independent contractors, federal employees and H1B visa holders.

Heat-Related Illness Symptoms to Watch Out For if You Start Feeling Overheated

Extreme heat is a serious health concern for American workers working outside and indoors.

Pro Tip: Knowing the symptoms to look for in someone who’s overheated can be vital for avoiding more serious conditions or death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 36 work-related deaths from environmental heat exposure in 2021 and 436 fatalities total since 2011.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Elevated body temperature or fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Thirst

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Heavy sweating or hot, dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Very high body temperature

Tips to Avoid Getting Overheated While Working Outdoors

Follow this advice to stay safe from heat-related illness while at work:

  • Monitor yourself for signs/symptoms of heat illness.
  • Avoid direct sun and other heat sources as much as possible.
  • Take frequent breaks either in the shade or indoors to avoid getting overheated.
  • Drink water or decaffeinated/non-alcoholic beverages throughout your shift, ideally once every 15 minutes. Pro Tip: Drink before you feel thirsty.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothes.

Acclimatization is an important way to build up your tolerance to heat. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health expects employers to “ensure workers are acclimatized before they work in a hot environment” by gradually increasing work in the heat/hot environments over 7 to 14 days. For new workers, the increase should be less than 20% each day. Workers with more experience laboring in the heat can begin at 50% and increase faster.

Pro Tip: If you file a workers’ compensation claim after becoming overheated at work, you can also file a workplace safety complaint. 

What to Do if You Suffer Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke at Work

Pro Tip: Excessive heat exposure requires immediate medical attention to keep your condition from becoming more serious. So if you feel overheated at any point, follow the steps below.

  1. Call a supervisor for help as soon as you or a coworker start feeling unwell. Pro Tip: If your supervisor isn’t around, call 9-1-1. Move to a cooler area, remove outer clothing, fan yourself, and then drink some cool water.
  2. Ask where you can get authorized medical assistance because you feel overheated.
  3. Tell EMS and healthcare providers that your illness is work-related. Pro Tip: Keep copies of all medical records and receipts.
  4. Request copies of all forms your employer files with their insurer as well as the state agency managing workers’ comp claims. Pro Tip: Learn what to do if your employer refuses to file a workers’ comp claim.

Overheated? Take Action to Get the Benefits You Deserve

Remember, if you become overheated and sick on the job you have a right to compensation. Working with an experienced workers’ comp attorney will help you get the benefits you’re entitled to. They can work with your employer, employer’s insurance company and the state so you don’t have to.  

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.