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OSHA raises concerns regarding work-related heat illnesses

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has released new education and emergency response initiatives for workers who perform jobs outdoors in high temperatures for extended periods of time. Coming out just ahead of the hottest time of year, the government outreach effort is geared toward at-risk workers and their employers to reduce job site heat-related illness and injury.

OSHA reports that thousands of workers suffer from a work-related heat illness and its complications - health issues that could be easily prevented with regular intervals of employee rest, shade and water. The government agency is urging employers to provide all three preventive measures in quantity to meet safer workplace guidelines.

Last year more than 30 people in the U.S. died due to heat stroke from outdoor work. Field laborers, road maintenance workers, landscapers and construction crews are among the most likely to be affected. However, any worker required to spend a lot of time in the hot sun, like car salespeople and airport baggage handlers, are also vulnerable to heat exhaustion, which can lead to fatal heat stroke.

The outreach program offers workplace training that offers life-saving information about how to prevent, identify and treat heat-related illnesses. OSHA has joined with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue nationwide heat alerts and has included prevention and treatment strategies.

Employees are protected by federal laws against workplace hazards. When a worker develops an illness because of the type of job they do or because of the conditions in which they work, an employer may be held liable for failing to meet or exceed the safety standards outlined by law.

Source: OSHA News Release online, "US Labor Department launches national outreach campaign to protect workers from heat-related illnesses," 26 April 2011

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