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Outdoor workers are more likely to experience traumatic injuries as temps climb: study

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Corvallis, OR — When temperatures rise, so do the rates of traumatic injuries among outdoor workers, according to the results of a recent Oregon State University study.

Researchers reviewed 2009-2018 workers’ compensation data from the construction and agricultural industries in Oregon. Specifically, they looked at nearly 92,000 injury claims that involved a temporary disability, permanent disability or death. Next, they matched those injury records with meteorological data to estimate heat exposure based on the heat index.

Workers were significantly more likely to suffer traumatic injuries when the heat index was above 75° F compared with days when the heat index was 65° F or below. When the heat index climbed over 90° F, that traumatic injury risk increased 19% to 29% above the 65° F baseline.

“These results support the need for occupational safety practitioners to include protections for workers during extreme heat,” study co-author Laurel Kincl, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said in a press release. “While our study is based in Oregon, this is true in other states and regions since these conditions will likely become more frequent with climate change.”

 

Added lead study author Richie Evoy: “The big take-home message I want people to get from this is that, if the temperature is high and you have workers out there, they’re more likely to be injured, whether it’s due to dehydration, reduction in mental capacity or exhaustion.”

The study was published online in the journal Health Science Reports.

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