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Humidity Increases Risk of Heatstroke for Workers

Tired stress worker sweat from hot weather in summer working at salmill carpenter man wood factory industry.

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

How many times have we all heard that one? Well, as The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s actually something to it.

Many workers have to do their jobs in very hot conditions during the summer. This includes construction workers, landscapers, firefighters, utility workers, carpenters, and maintenance personnel. There are a number of heat-related illnesses they can suffer that leave them unable to work and eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

One of those illnesses is heatstroke. Symptoms may include high body temperature, heavy sweating, confusion, rapid heart rate, unconsciousness, and seizures. The body overheats because it is not able to cool down – and humidity makes that even more difficult.

The temperature regulation process

When it’s hot out, the body maintains a core temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit by sweating through the pores of the skin. One crucial step of this process is when the moisture on the skin evaporates into the air.

That’s where humidity can cause problems, said Alexis Halpern, an emergency medicine physician at NY Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medicine.

“At greater than 75% humidity, it’s harder for evaporation to happen off the skin,” she said.

Heat and humidity are measured through air temperature, heat index, and wet-bulb temperature. Air temperature is the most common and is measured with a thermometer. The heat index is based on air temperature and relative humidity to give an indication of how the heat and humidity will feel.

Wet-bulb temperature is measured through the use of a thermometer with a water-soaked cloth wrapped around the bulb. Air is passed over it until the water is evaporated. The more humid it is, the higher the wet-bulb temperature will be, and the more difficult it will be to cool down.

The human body loses the ability to cool itself through sweat at a wet-bulb temperature of 95 Fahrenheit or more, according to Colin Raymond, a researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Raymond examined weather data from 1979 through 2017. In recent years, he said the number of wet-bulb temperatures in excess of 86 degrees has risen from 300 per year to more than 1,100 per year.

Injured workers deserve benefits

Employers have a responsibility to take steps to help prevent heat-related illnesses at the workplace, including heatstroke. Workers can generally stay cool by drinking plenty of water, taking breaks, staying in the shade when possible, and wearing appropriate clothing. But when humidity is a factor, their risk of heatstroke increases.

Workers who suffer a heat-related illness on the job and are forced to miss time from work are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include medical expenses and partial wages during the time they are unable to work. But the workers’ compensation system can be difficult to navigate, and employers and insurance companies often challenge claims.

If you were hurt on the job in Philadelphia, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who knows how to move your claim forward. Attorney Richard Jaffe has been fighting for injured workers in Pennsylvania for decades and has the experience to get you the results you deserve. In fact, Attorney Jaffe was recently chosen by his peers for inclusion in "The Best Lawyers in America" in the field of Workers' Compensation for the 8th consecutive year.

Learn more about how our law firm can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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