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How can employers protect workers' health and safety in the heat?


The height of summer can be a dangerous time for Utica workers who work outside. There's an unfortunate tendency among employers to expect employees to "tough it out" when the temperatures soar. The reality, however, is that employers need to protect their employees from dangerous heat levels the same way they do other hazardous conditions.

How, our readers may wonder, should they be doing this? For some answers, let's look at what the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's website has to say on the subject. We present this as general information only and not specific legal advice.

OSHA notes that if a company employs workers who labor outdoors, especially if they have to work with bulky equipment or wear heavy protective gear or clothing, that company should have a program in place to prevent workers from suffering heat illness. Heat illness prevention measures include:

  • Allowing workers access to drinking water.
  • Providing them with breaks to rest in the shade.
  • Allowing new workers and those who've been away for a week or more to gradually develop a tolerance for the heat.
  • Adapting work schedules to dangerous heat levels and planning for urgent medical situations that occur.
  • Training workers to notice the warning signs of heat illness and take preventive action.

The agency stresses "rest, water and shade" as three words that can save lives when it comes to heat illness.

We'll continue this important discussion next week, closing for now by reminding our readers that workers' compensation may be available for those who have suffered the effects of heat illness. In the meantime: stay cool.

Source: OSHA.gov, "Welcome to OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers," accessed on July 25, 2015

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