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OSHA Warns Outdoor Workers About Risks of Heat-Related Illnesses & Fatalities

Aaron Sachs & Associates, P. C.

The summer months in Missouri are hot and dangerous for outdoor workers, who risk serious heat illnesses as temperatures rise. In particular, construction workers, agriculture workers, and utility workers will want to take precautions to protect themselves from heat stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat stress occurs when the body cannot cool itself normally because its temperature control system is overloaded. In extreme cases, when a person's body temperature gets too high, heat illness can cause serious personal injury, including damage to the brain and other vital organs. In light of these risks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is campaigning to bring awareness to workers and employers about heat illness prevention.

682474_thermo_4.jpgDespite increased awareness of the dangers heat can pose, many deaths have been caused by improper protection from heat stress in the workplace. According to the United States Labor Department, heat-related illnesses strike thousands of employees every summer, resulting in an average of over 30 worker deaths each year.

Although many heat-related illnesses are directly linked to working outdoors in hot conditions, other injuries can also be provoked by dehydration or sweaty palms. Special training and planning is needed to ensure that employees are protected under these conditions. When employers don't take action to prevent occupational heat exposure, they place their employees at risk for physical harm. Workers who experience any symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps, or heat rash should seek medical attention immediately.

OSHA has started a national campaign to educate employers and employees about the risks associated with summer weather. It is vital that care is taken to prevent serious personal injuries connected to heat, according to Dr. David Michaels, assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "It is essential for workers and employers to take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat, and become aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion," Dr. Michaels said in an OSHA news release. The Administration also emphasizes the importance of abundant "water, rest, and shade" to safeguard outdoor workers' physical health.

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