Continued heat may contribute to workplace illness

In early September it's not unusual to see the warm summer temperatures begin to recede. However, this year appears to be a possible exception. Temperatures in the 90's are still forecast for much of California. Temperatures that high can lead to workplace illness for those who are exposed to the high temperatures for prolonged periods of time.

In recent years workers have suffered and nearly died due to heat-related illnesses. Two years ago, a worker in another state suffered kidney failure after many consecutive days of unloading heavy boxes in hot weather from a truck. He nearly died.

Heat stress can cause many different ailments, including dehydration, heat stroke, confusion, fatigue and, if left untreated, even organ failure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has repeatedly suggested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration put into place safety standards to protect workers with prolonged exposure to high temperatures. To date, that has not occurred. OSHA guidelines suggest that employers should make rest, water and shade breaks available, but there are no requirements that these measures be enforced.

Workers may want to attempt to safeguard themselves against heat related workplace illness through frequent hydration and respite from the heat when possible and to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Workers in California who believe they may be suffering from heat related symptoms may want to consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can review the situation and advise the client of one's rights according to current workers' compensation law.

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