Dehydration can be a precursor to serious injuries, including muscle tears, heatstroke, and even brain damage. Staying well-hydrated can be vitally important for people who work in the kinds of hot conditions we face here in Nevada. When dehydration leads to an injury on the job, it’s important to understand how dehydration fits into workers’ compensation law.
Workers’ comp only covers work-related injuries
Nevada’s workers’ compensation law ensures that benefits are extended to people who suffer injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment. In this regard, some kinds of dehydration-related injuries can at first seem straightforward. For example, a muscle torn while working on a job site may seem like an obvious case of a job-related injury.
Insurers sometimes try to escape financial responsibility for a worker’s injuries by looking for independent, non-work causes of the injury. An employee’s serious dehydration could potentially serve that purpose in some situations. People who work in hot conditions probably need to routinely hydrate, not just at work but also during off-work time. People with dehydrating habits, like drinking multiple alcoholic beverages every day, may be contributing to their condition. If a doctor concludes that a specific injury was caused by dehydration that can be traced to something outside of work, a claim could potentially be denied. This uncertainty gives workers one more good reason to stay well-hydrated.
Employer obligations to provide water
The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that employers provide workers with regular access to water as part of a broader plan to mitigate heat-related injury. But these are only recommendations.
Under state and federal OSHA law, every employer is required to keep workplaces free of hazards that are likely to cause serious harm. This general duty is subject to interpretation, but can be construed as requiring employers to provide basic mitigation for heat-related injuries in situations where the workplace is exposed to the hot sun. A supply of water and regular opportunities for water breaks may fit within this obligation. Unfortunately, OSHA laws are only enforceable through administrative processes. They do not provide for a worker to sue to enforce their guidelines, and they aren’t typically useful in disputes over workers’ compensation coverage.
GGRM can answer your workers’ comp questions
The attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have broad experience with workers’ compensation issues. We help our clients resolve claims disputes and get the benefits they deserve. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.