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Planning ahead reduces heat-related worker injuries

Workplaces that expose workers to extreme heat could inflict heat stress illnesses. Heat stroke presents the worst risk to Pennsylvania workers in hot conditions because it is potentially deadly. The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends that employers keep workers aware of heat illness risks and establish procedures to monitor workers' heat exposure and respond quickly to warning signs.

A company that creates an emergency plan and communicates it to workers can help prevent heat illnesses or treat them before they become severe. A designated person on each team should be trained to monitor heat conditions. If it is too hot to work, then rescheduling duties might be appropriate. Another choice is to reduce workloads and make sure workers consume plenty of fluids and take breaks.

Signs of heat stress include profuse sweating, confusion, headache, dizziness and cramping. When a supervisor or worker sees signs of heat stress in a colleague, the emergency plan should inform the person of what to do. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the worker might need emergency medical care. The employer's plan should tell workers how to perform basic first aid for heat stress and how to contact emergency services when necessary.

A worker who succumbs to heat stroke or heat exhaustion might require time off work. Because hot working conditions caused the heat illness, the person would have access to workers' compensation insurance to pay for medical care and reimburse lost wages. When a worker is uncertain what benefits should be provided for a workplace injury, the person could contact an attorney. The process for filing a claim could be explained by an attorney who can also assist with the application and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company.

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