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Five tips for preventing heat-related illness among workers

In Pennsylvania and across the U.S., the summer brings with it extreme heat and the risk of developing heat-related illnesses. Both indoor and outdoor workers run this risk, so employers should have a plan in place to address it. After all, more than 1,300 workers die every year in this country from extreme heat.

First, employers may want to write out an injury and illness prevention program. This will go over the ways to identify hazards and prevent them from impacting workers' health. A second tip is to provide heat stress prevention training. Workers must know how heat impacts health and what symptoms heat-related illness will display.

Third, it would be wise to have a tool for the daily assessment of how heat impacts worker health. Supervisors can consider the mobile app called the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool. The IIPP must make mention of this tool, especially considering how accessible it is.

Ensuring the right engineering and administrative controls make up the final two tips. Engineering controls include air conditioning; if central AC is impractical or too expensive to maintain, then portable evaporative coolers may take its place. Administrative controls could include the shortening of work shifts to avoid the midday heat and the implementation of a heat acclimation program. These can protect worker health and maintain productivity.

Employers who have to face a case under workers' compensation law, if they realize that the workers were to blame for their own injuries, have the right to deny benefits. Because of this, injured employees, for their part, may want to hire a lawyer before filing for these benefits. A lawyer might help with the appeal, if necessary, and discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of a lump sum settlement. Benefits can cover medical expenses and some lost wages.

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