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The dangers of heat-related illness in the workplace

When temperatures soar and heat indices rise, Minnesota residents may be interested in knowing that they live in one of only three states in the nation that have heat-related illness prevention standards in place to protect workers. Under agreements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Minnesota, California and Washington run their own safety programs. These programs require employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards, including excessive heat exposure, that could lead to the death or serious injury of their employees.

According to OSHA, there are real dangers associated with excessive heat exposure in the workplace. In 2012, more than 30 worker deaths were caused by heat-related illnesses, and thousands of workers who labor outdoors become sick each year due to heat-related causes. Employees who are exposed to direct sunlight, high temperatures and high humidity levels as well as those whose work requires continuous or intense physical activity could be at risk.

OHSA says that employers should evaluate worksite conditions for risk factors and take preventative steps. To this end, an OHSA Smartphone App is available that can be used in direct sunlight to measure heat stress conditions. Employers should also remain aware that new employees or those returning to work after an absence of only seven days may be particularly at risk for heat-related illnesses as it takes time to develop a tolerance to hot worksite conditions. According to OHSA, lack of acclimatization was a leading cause of heat illness and death among workers from 2012 to 2013.

There are many measures recognized by OHSA that employers can implement to protect their employees from the effects of heat. Minnesota residents who have suffered heat-related illness due to conditions in the workplace may be entitled to financial compensation and may find it helpful to seek advice from an attorney.

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