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Preventing workplace injuries by protecting workers from heat

As the seasons change and it begins to get hotter in California, Cal/OSHA has released new regulations regarding protecting workers from the heat. Heat-related illnesses can cause serious physical effects, even resulting in hospitalization or death. These stricter regulations reflect the importance of protecting workers from heat-related workplace injuries

One of the main ways that employers must protect workers is by providing water that is cool and readily available. Workers should have access to shade while on breaks, including at meal times. When a worker requests a break to cool down, managers and employers should monitor the employee for signs of illness or duress. If a worker does show signs of illness, proper medical care must be provided. 

Heat-related illnesses include fatigue, headaches, nausea, excessive sweating and muscle cramps. If untreated, the victim could experience confusion, stroke, seizures or even death. Experts have predicted warmer-than-usual temperatures in California for the spring and summer, making these new regulations timely and important. Employers must comply with these regulations starting at the beginning of May, and it is their obligation to promote and protect the safety of their employees. 

Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all workers. This includes protecting their health by requiring rest breaks and providing water, as well as training workers on the dangers and signs of heat-related illnesses. Workplace injuries are not always caused by an accident or error, but can also include illnesses that are due to the work environment. Those who do become ill because of excessive heat may seek workers' compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. 

Source: centralvalleybusinesstimes.com, "Cal/OSHA toughens heat safety regulations", April 7, 2015

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