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North Carolina Workers' Compensation and Heat-Related Injuries

Employers need to be more aware of how heat stress and dehydration can harm employees. There doesn't have to be blood on the floor to have an injury that may be eligible for workers' compensation.

The North Carolina courts are increasingly recognizing that long-term disabilities can result from illnesses related to excessive heat. In one recent case, Steele v. Surry County, an operator of heavy equipment had a seizure while working in a landfill pit - and then continued to have seizures even after he got out of the hospital.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the equipment operator had a right to temporary total disability benefits. The evidence showed a causal relationship between the seizures and the heat-related illness suffered on the job.

It isn't just people who work outside under the hot sun who can be at risk of heat-related illness. People who work inside around machinery or in confined settings can also be subjected to heat stress. Examples of the occupations affected by the risk of such stress include mechanics, plumbers, drycleaners and bakery workers, among others.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is trying to educate employers about the dangers of heat stress. Workers vary in their tolerance for this stress. Overall wellness and body size are among the factors involved, as are specific individual conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Clearly employers need to do more as well to prevent employees from suffering heat-related injuries at work.

Source: "Managing Workers' Comp: Taking the Stress Out of Heat," Insurancenewsnet, 7-9-11

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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