If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the danger.

August 13, 2014 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Portland has been experiencing a recent string of hot weather. Some of these hot and muggy days have set records that may literally have some people fainting. The danger of heat exposure goes beyond feeling light-headed. In many cases it has led to serious injury and death.

Just a few months ago, two small children were found by themselves in a car with windows closed in 90 degree weather. The children were found drenched in sweat, radiating heat, and screaming when a police officer rescued them. Meteorologists say that temperatures inside a car can rise 40 degrees within an hour on a hot day. The nanny, who should have been responsible for the children, was arrested for abandoning them in the car.

Not so fortunate was a mother and her two children that were found dead in a hot parking lot in Maryland this week. Although the circumstances are still being investigated, the official cause of death was hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and heat exposure.

Although the dangers of heat exposure are well known, many preventable injuries continue to occur because people do not recognize the symptoms of hyperthermia. Many think that heat illness can only occur outside. However, heat illness can occur anywhere, especially when there is high humidity and limited air movement. Construction workers, laborers, and contractors are especially at risk because their jobs sometimes call for them to be exposed to hot environments for a long time.

To keep people safe, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released several guides and regulations to help workers understand and prevent the dangers of heat stroke. These guides and regulations are not optional and supervisors have an absolute duty to watch out for their fellow workers. Unfortunately, not all supervisors are well trained and some will even look the other way to get the job done fast. Mixed with workers who don’t want to get in trouble with “the boss”, the dangers of heat exposure can lead to career ending mistakes.

Workers are not the only people who are consistently exposed to high heat. Many athletes are also susceptible, especially student athletes, to the dangers of heat related illness. The ambition of young athletes can cause them to ignore their own bodies for a shot at the goal. Student athletes also tend to push themselves harder to impress their peers and not let down their teammates. In these cases, it is very important for coaches and fellow players to watch out for each other to prevent a tragedy. Although it can be hard to keep track of what is going on in the middle of a “big game”, these responsibilities are absolutely critical to prevent a tragedy from happening.

Although education has helped prevent many heat-related injuries, they still continue to happen. When they do, it is important to seek immediate medical assistance. Those that have been pushed beyond their limits by a boss, supervisor, or a coach may also have a legal claim for personal injuries sustained in an unsafe environment.

The attorneys at Pickett Dummigan LLP have spent decades protecting workers from unsafe conditions and representing athletes that have been pushed beyond their limits. To discover whether you have a claim, you can contact us at 503-405-8037.

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