Climate change is making it harder for people to deal with uncomfortably high temperatures both at home and at work. There are very few laws that specifically address the needs of workers in that area. However, Minnesota is an exception.
Minnesota is one of only three states with specific laws in place to protect employees against heat injuries. These laws make employers responsible for guarding their workers against heat-related dangers.
California and Washington have laws that protect outdoor workers. However, Minnesota is the only state to address the needs of indoor workers. This includes people who work in factories, warehouses, machines shops, mills and other workplaces that can get excessively hot.
Many people think of heat as something that you just have to deal with in certain occupations. That's a dangerous misconception. As one researcher who studies the health effects of heat exposure put it, "Heat is not an inconvenience or a nuisance. It's very real, with consequences that can range from minor to fatal."
Some of the workers who are most susceptible to heat-related injuries and illnesses are those with health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that may make them more medically fragile. However, even a young, healthy worker can fall victim to heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses if not given time to acclimate to a job with exposure to high temperatures.
Managers should be conscious of this and provide new employees with shorter starting shifts and extended breaks -- as well as safety education about heat -- until those employees have had time to adjust to their working conditions.
If you suffered a heat-related illness or a loved one died due to heat exposure on the job, workers' compensation may be available to assist you in your time of need. Find out more about your rights and other possible legal avenues for compensation.