Workplace injuries: Heat exposure can be life-threatening


As the weather warms up, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is focusing on its annual quest to create awareness about the dangers of heat illness. Both employers and employees must be reminded annually that heat exposure, like many other workplace injuries, can be fatal. The safety agency collaborates with multiple organizations, including agricultural employers, each year to provide training on the risks of heat exposure to outdoor workers.

Cal/OSHA requires employers of outdoor workers to provide sufficient fresh water for each worker and to encourage them to drink at least one quart of water per hour. They must also allow employees to take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas, instead of waiting until they feel sick before taking a cool-down break. They recommend that employees who are unfamiliar with working in such circumstances be allowed to get used to the conditions gradually.

The safety agency requires employers to have written safety standards available for all workers, including instructions on how to handle emergencies. Employees must learn the heat-illness symptoms for which to look out and utilize the buddy-system. Workers and their buddies can keep an eye on each other, and take action upon the first signs of illness.

One of the first signs of heat exhaustion is disorientation, and lone workers might not realize the severity and get to a rest area quickly, which is crucial to prevent serious health consequences. California workers who do land in the hospital with heat illness or other workplace injuries need not be concerned about the costs. Legal counsel can help them to file workers’ compensation claims for benefits to cover their medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.

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