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Work-related illness: Cal/OSHA warns about risks of summer heat

In anticipation of the approaching summer, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration urged employers to prepare their outdoor workers for the expected high temperatures. The National Climatic Data Center reported California temperatures in 2014 that exceeded all others since 1895, and, based on measured temperatures over the past two months, this summer will be no different. All workers will be affected by high temperatures, and everyone needs to be aware of the dangers in order to avoid a work-related illness.

Without proper heat management, workers may suffer heat illness that typically starts with fatigue, headaches and excessive sweating. Muscles will cramp, and if left unattended, an affected worker's condition can quickly become severe with vomiting and mental confusion. This may progress to seizures, fainting and even death. It is vital for all employees to be aware of these tell-tale signs of heat illness and what to do when the initial symptoms are experienced.

Employers should ensure there is sufficient cool water on site, and workers should be encouraged not to limit their liquid intake. It is important to allow employees regular short breaks in shaded areas throughout the day. Supervisors have to be on the lookout for any workers showing signs of being affected by the heat, and preventative action should be taken immediately. For this reason, it is also important to have communication systems in place that will allow swift reaction by emergency workers.

Because of Cal/OSHA's strict and extensive safety regulations related to heat illness, the number of California workers affected may be reduced this summer. Workers who experience any discomfort from being exposed to high temperatures should be allowed to take preventative measures. Nevertheless, any worker who suffers a work-related illness is entitled to pursue compensation for medical expenses by claiming workers' compensation benefits.

Source: thecalifornian.com, "Cal/OSHA: Prepare now for summer heat", Dennis L. Taylor, April 1, 2015

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