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Hot conditions can lead to work-related illnesses and deaths

The calendar is nearly ready to turn to June, and hot and humid summer-like weather will soon reach Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania. That can mean dangerous conditions for employees who spend their working hours outdoors. According to one U.S. Labor Department doctor, some of the jobs that have the greatest risk for illness brought on by exposure to the heat are roofers, construction workers and those involved in farming.

The seriousness of paying attention to hot weather is underscored by statistics concerning workplace fatalities compiled by the Labor Department. Since 2003, heat stroke has killed on average over 30 workers each year, according to government data. Such work-related deaths may give rise to a workers' compensation claim on behalf of the employee's dependent survivors.

But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking steps to ensure that employers and workers are well-educated about the dangers of working in the heat. The agency stresses recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion, which include cramps, heat rash and a raised body temperature. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition.

OSHA therefore advises outdoor workers to take adequate precautions on hot and humid days. Taking a number of breaks in the shade and remaining hydrated throughout the workday can help prevent illnesses and fatalities. OSHA has come up with a pithy slogan to convey this advice: "Water. Rest. Shade." Workers and their employers can also be constantly updated on the heat through a smartphone application developed by OSHA, with which workers can track the heat index at a given location.

Source: FOX News Latino, "How to Beat the Heat if You Work Outdoors," Tracy López, May 10, 2012.

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