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Reducing workers' risk for heat-related illnesses

Heat-related illnesses cause more than 1,300 workers' deaths every year in Connecticut and across the U.S., according to the EPA. Heat, not just from the sun but also from machinery and from layers of personal protective equipment, is something that every employer must address whether the employees work indoors or outdoors. Below are some tips.

First of all, an injury and illness prevention program can protect employees by identifying heat sources and providing steps toward their mitigation. The program should be specific to the work environment, the size of the workforce and the length of the shifts.

Second, employers should establish heat stress prevention training, perhaps with the help of OSHA guidelines and training materials. Knowing the symptoms of heat-related illness is an essential part of prevention. It may be wise to obtain an assessment tool like the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app that determines risk levels for workers based on an analysis of the heat index.

Keeping employees cool goes without saying, and if central AC is too unwieldy or expensive, owners may opt for portable evaporator coolers, which come in various sizes. At the same time, instituting a heat acclimation program is advisable, even when it might entail a loss in productivity by giving workers breaks in extreme heat.

There may come a day when a worker is injured despite training. The employer will likely face a workers' compensation claim, but if there is proof that the victim is to blame for his or her own injuries, the employer may deny benefits. The filing process can be complicated, so those who intend to file a workers' comp claim may wish to seek legal counsel. A successful claim might reimburse them for medical bills and, up to a point, lost wages.

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