Employers and employees must work together to safeguard the workforce – but what if the worst happens?
Recent events across the country have precipitated workers to fight for remedies due to the excessive heat wave this summer. They are experiencing many problems including heat exhaustion, stroke, and other illnesses – even death. Unions employees were forced to have sit outs, threat to strike, and make demands for their safety. The national news is filled with reports, with one of the largest groups being the drivers for UPS. A recent threat to strike by the UPS drivers has temporarily been averted with a tentative agreement, but what about all the other workers? We have become dependent since the pandemic on all types of delivery drivers who are new to work force - the newly named “GIG” economy - but what about all our traditional trades that protect us such as postal workers, firefighters, public safety, construction workers, landscapers, and many others?
Maryland is a state that recognizes this issue in workers’ compensation cases in the following inclusion in the statute:
Section 9-101(b) “Accidental personal injury” means
(3) a disease or infection that naturally results from an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment, including
(i) an occupational injury
(ii) frostbite or sunstroke caused by a weather condition
The City of Boston, published the Labor Compliance and Worker Protection update , July 26,2023, cited that heat related deaths are underreported. Often cause of death is listed as the event, such as heart attack, without mention of the heat.
OSHA has set guidelines and there are many reasonable and not expensive protocols that employers can implement to assist in keeping the workforce safe, such as hydration, breaks, and monitoring.
In Maryland, if you think you have had an episode, and it might have been brought on by excessive heat, you should consult an attorney to explore whether it should be covered under workers’ compensation. If accepted, the insurance company for the employer or the self-insured employer, will provide disability benefits for loss wages, medical treatment, potentially permanent benefits and vocational rehabilitation. Meanwhile – keep cool!
Debora Fajer-Smith, Of Counsel to Joseph Greenwald and Laake, PA, has handled personal injuries and work-related injuries for 38 years. She was named Leader in the Law by the Daily Record 2014 and sits as an appointed member of the Maryland Legislature Senate House Oversight Committee on Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Insurance. DFS@JGLLAW.COM