Jobs in industries such as agriculture, landscaping and construction typically have many workers employed outside through all kinds of weather. Many of those who work outside are at risk of heat related illness.
Unfortunately, the hot weather we have had so far this summer has resulted in a number of workplace fatalities attributed to the heat. Tragically, back in May, a Louisiana worker died from heat stress after picking tomatoes and over May and June, two construction workers perished from heat related illnesses in Florida and South Dakota while on the job. In fact, OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reports that dozens of workers die yearly due to heat problems.
The injuries and fatalities are not limited to those working outdoors. Heat injuries can result from strenuous physical labor not only in hot weather, but during physical contact with hot objects or other radiant heat sources which may include environments such as laundries, bakeries, steel and iron foundries, ceramic and brick-firing plants, commercial kitchens, smelters, mines and glass-making facilities.
OSHA requires that employers provide employees a workplace free of safety hazards and this includes protecting workers from extreme heat. When working in outdoor conditions that may cause heat related illnesses, employers must provide workers with reasonable water, rest and shade. To protect new or returning workers who are at risk of heat exposure inside and outside, employers should gradually increase workloads and provide more frequent breaks to build tolerance for heat. Workers and their supervisors should receive training to prevent heat illnesses, recognize the signs of danger and develop a plan for emergencies.
Any worker exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk of heat illness, especially those who are engaged in heavy work tasks and those who must wear bulky protective clothing or equipment. Employers, particularly those in industries at high risk for heat-related illness such as construction, trade, transportation, utilities, agriculture, grounds maintenance, and support activities for oil and gas operations, must act to protect their employees from harm.
Heat injuries and deaths are preventable. If you or a family member has been injured due to a heat related illness, contact the Des Moines Law Offices of John T. Hemminger for help. Victims of heat injury on the job due to an employer’s negligence can seek economic compensation by means of a personal injury lawsuit, a workers compensation insurance claim or a wrongful death claim.
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