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OSHA announces 2011 campaign to raise awareness about heat-related illnesses

In recent workers' compensation defense news, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced earlier this week that it was officially launching an educational campaign designed to inform both employers and employees of the dangers posed by excessive heat exposure (i.e., heat exhaustion and heat stroke).

The campaign - which was modeled after California OHSA's heat awareness materials - features a curriculum for workplace training, an informative agency web page and a new partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to include worker safety warnings with broadcasted heat alerts.

"As we move into the summer months, it is very important for workers and employers to take the steps necessary to stay safe in extreme heat," said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA Assistant Secretary. "Drinking water often, taking breaks and limiting time in the heat are simple, effective ways to prevent heat illness."

While it may seem easy to dismiss, heat exposure poses a real threat to employee safety. In fact, OSHA statistics indicate that heat stroke was responsible for over 30 work fatalities last year.

Typically, those suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke show the following symptoms:

  • Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness/fainting, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, mood changes (frequently manifested by confusion or irritability) and headaches.
  • Common symptoms of heat stroke include warm skin coupled with an inability to sweat, a loss of consciousness and seizures/convulsions.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has previously recommended that employers take the following precautions when the temperature rises:

  • Require employees to take additional breaks/rest periods
  • Utilize both fans and/or air conditioning (if possible)
  • Observe employees for any of the above-mentioned symptoms
  • Consider adopting measures to block direct exposure to sunlight

The ASSE has also recommended that employees take the following precautions when the temperature rises:

  • Drink at least one cup of water every 15 minutes
  • Avoid eating large meals and consuming excessive caffeine
  • Wear sunscreen/sunblock and sunglasses
  • Dress in loose, light-reflective clothes

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

Related Resources:

US Labor Department launches national outreach campaign to protect workers from heat-related illnesses (U.S. Department of Labor)

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