Routine exposure to sun while working can lead to short-term consequences, like severe sun burns and heat stroke, as well as long-term problems like melanoma. Workers who develop serious medical conditions as a result of repeated sun exposure on the job may have questions about their legal options.
OSHA and sun exposure
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and its related regulations do not include rules governing sun exposure. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration interpretation indicates that although OSHA doesn’t specifically require employers to provide sun protection, such as sunscreen lotion, hats, or shade structures, employers are required to provide “appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to serious hazards.” In short, an employer must take steps to protect employees only from “serious” overexposure.
The interpretation cites 29 CFR 1910.132(a), which calls for employers to provide suitable protections against “hazards of environment” that are “capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.” But the regulations set a high standard where “hazards” are present, requiring employers to prepare a written certification of hazard assessment, and provide employee training. The regulations specifically exempt employers from having to pay for everyday sun protection clothing and creams.
The Administration has not established measurements for determining how much sun exposure qualifies as “overexposure.” In another interpretation, it cites the OSHA general duty clause, which requires employers to keep their workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 29 U.S.C. 654. In short, if sun exposure is so bad that it could cause an employee’ s death or serious physical harm, an employer has an obligation to treat it as a “hazard.” In Nevada, where our temperatures can be very high, one can expect sun exposure to meet these requirements in many circumstances.
Sun exposure and workers’ compensation
For workers who suffer injuries like heat stroke or who develop skin cancer, workers’ compensation may offer relief. To be covered by Nevada’ s workers’ compensation system, an injury must arise in the course and scope of employment. Among other things, this rule means that insurers will look for potential causes of the injury that were not related to work. For example, a construction worker who came to work after a night of hard drinking might have contributed to his heat stroke by making himself more vulnerable and not hydrating properly before coming to work.
For occupational diseases that develop more slowly, like melanoma, workers will face a more difficult challenge. Unlike other kinds of work-related diseases where exposure to a specific hazard can be isolated to the workplace, sun exposure happens to everyone. But in such circumstances an experienced workers’ compensation attorney should be consulted to carefully evaluate the facts.
GGRM understands complex work-related injury
For over 45 years the attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have handled complicated workers’ compensation cases in the Las Vegas area. If you have questions about your legal options after suffering a sun-related injury at work, contact us for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.