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Importance of avoiding workplace injuries stressed during heat

The temperatures during the California harvest time can be hot enough to pose a threat to the health of workers in outdoor occupations. For that reason, the California branch of OSHA is working to get the word out to employers and employees alike in order to prevent workplace injuries related to heat exposure. While many changes have been introduced in the past, the need to constantly reassess workplace safety cannot be overemphasized.

Some produce farmers have taken the step of adjusting the workday schedule in order to try to avoid the hottest part of the work day. Other companies have taken measures to ensure that adequate shade and fresh water is accessible. OSHA is also reevaluating the need to have sun shelters and hydrating stations set up, within a reasonable distance, for the workers in fields and orchards.

Some employers, however, have voiced their opposition to some of the OSHA requirements, citing the lack of space to accommodate mandated shelters. While some employers have stated that training sessions regarding the steps to avoid a heat-related illness are offered regularly, there are workers who have stated that there is not enough verbal training sessions on an ongoing basis. Moreover, there are some migrant workers who prefer the verbal sessions over printed materials.

There is a concerted effort on the part of Cal/OSHA to ensure that workers are protected from heat-related illnesses and other workplace injuries. In fact, there haven't been any recorded deaths from heat in the recent past among outdoor employees. However, the lack of fatalities does not preclude the fact that workers can still suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which can pose a serious threat to employees. Any worker who has suffered a job-related illness or injury will most likely qualify for the workers' compensation benefit program. Employees in California who have questions about filing a claim have resources to consult for assistance.

Source: The Business Journal, "Rising temperatures raise heat illness threat", Chuck Harvey, June 27, 2014

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