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Heat-related workplace illnesses cause worker deaths

When the snow started melting and the sun started shining, North Carolina residents may have taken their picnic baskets to the park to enjoy the warm weather. However, as the temperatures continue to soar and humidity increases, the heat loses its charm, especially for outdoor workers. According to statistics gathered about workplace illnesses associated with heat, thousands of people become ill because of the heat and and around 60 of the 658 people who die annually from heat exposure are outdoor workers.

Working in the heat can be deadly, according to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Construction and agriculture workers are most at risk to become ill due to the high temperatures. And it is not only high temperatures that workers have to be careful about-humidity is equally dangerous, as it hampers the body's capability to cool itself.

On its website, OSHA has created resources for workers, including an app that advises them how often they should be taking breaks in the hot weather. According to OSHA, workers working outside in the heat should try to rest in the shade and drink plenty of liquids. They should aim to take a break every 20 minutes, depending on the weather conditions. OSHA also advises workers to work in pairs so they can watch each other for signs of heat-related illnesses, as it may not always be easy to recognize their signs.

Employers who do not provide adequate training and safety measures for their employees resulting in their injury or death may be held accountable for their negligent actions through a workers' compensation suit. A workers' compensation claim can help recover costs associated with medical treatment and other resulting damages.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, "Nancy's Almanac, July 2, 2013: Excessive heat a killer for workers," Nancy Gaarder, July 3, 2013

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