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OSHA: prevent heat-related illness in the summer

Summer, in Connecticut and across the U.S., puts both indoor and outdoor workers at risk for heat-related illnesses. OSHA requires employers to have a heat illness prevention program in place if their employees are exposed to high temperatures. This program must incorporate three things: water, rest breaks and shade.

Though construction sites see 40% of all heat-related worker deaths, these OSHA standards apply to more than the construction industry. In fact, workers in every industry can be affected by high temperatures, so employers everywhere must be able to identify safety risks and manage them. If they do not, their workers may suffer from heat rash, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Besides hydrating fluids, rest and shaded areas, workers need for their personal protective equipment to be as light as possible. New employees and those who have away from work for a week or more can benefit from an acclimatization program. This increases their workload gradually so that workers develop a tolerance for the heat.

Besides prevention, employers must focus on training employees to identify signs of heat-related illness. They should also be trained on how to handle emergencies. OSHA has an Occupational Heat Exposure web page with more information, including details on first-aid training. It should always be remembered that most heat-related deaths and illnesses are 100% preventable.

There are times, though, when workers are injured not so much through the employer's negligence as through their own. Whatever the degree of fault on both sides, victims may be able to pursue a workers' compensation case once they have achieved maximum medical improvement. Workers' comp benefits might provide wage replacement and reimburse them for medical expenses and any short- or long-term disability leave. Before filing the claim, victims may want a legal evaluation. A lawyer might help in filing an appeal.

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