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Study shows high heat is associated with an increase in workplace injuries and accidents

Posted at 10:37 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-30 01:37:41-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Residents everywhere are dealing with the dog days of summer -- some more than others.

Those in more populated, urbanized areas are living in 'heat islands'.

"The typical definition is of local air temperatures that are warmer because of the built environment," said Assoc. Professor at Arizona State University Paul Coseo.

Asphalt, concrete, and steel absorb and re-emit much more heat than plants. It's why cities can get so hot compared to rural areas.

For example -- last year, the average temperatures in Bakersfield and Fresno were 67.9 and 67.2 degrees, respectively.
The two urban areas trended warmer compared to a more rural city like Hanford, where the average temperature was 64.9 degrees.

A UCLA study shows with increased heat -- comes an increased risk of health impacts on urban workers when summer is in full swing.

The 2021 publication examined over 11 million workers compensation claims in California. It shows a significant increase when it comes to hot weather and the risk of accidents and injuries at work - no matter if employees are indoors or outside.

The study went on to say on days with temperatures above 90 degrees, there was a 6% to 9% increase in injury risk versus days with temperatures in the 50's and '60's.
And -- when triple digits hit -- the risk of injuries increased by 10%-15%.

When it comes to working outdoors, experts say heat exposure can have a range of physical impacts, noting an uptick in one injury directly tied to high temperatures.

"We have started to see in other part of the world but now also here what we think is heat-associated kidney disease," said Dr. Perry Sheffield with the ICahn School of Medicine Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai. "And we think repeated dehydration events play a role in the damage to the kidneys."

As far as the cost of heat-related injuries, data shows that figure could be between $750 million to $1.25 billion per year in California when you factor in healthcare costs, lost wages and productivity and disability claims.

One expert at Boston University School of Public Health encourages employers to consider these tips for their workers in the midst of heat waves:
First - allow employees to take frequent breaks during warm weather.

And -- have enough water on sight as dehydration affects a person's physical abilities.

"They start to experience some symptoms that are prone to have injuries on the job or be a little bit less able to carry heavy items is another concerns if they're dehydrated or don't have enough water," said Amruta Nori-Sarma, PhD, with the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health.

Also -- Nori-Sarma recommends employers provide adequate shade for outdoor workers.
And, she says consider scheduling shifts to start earlier in the day -- or split shifts between mornings and evenings to avoid peak heat.

Those looking for more information can download a free app created by OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, that sends alerts when high heat days are in the forecast and shares tips for employers and workers when it comes to staying safe in the heat.