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Wisconsin work injuries: summer heat can injure or even kill

Summer is just around the corner, and for many workers across Wisconsin and the rest of the nation, that also means increased risk from sweltering heat in factories and other business which are not sufficiently cooled during the warmest months of the year.  Add to these those workers who must work outside where there is no air conditioning at all, and the risk of work injuries related to heat exhaustion only jumps exponentially.  The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has released statistics showing that over 30 workers have died from heat stroke each and every year since 2003.

The risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke correlate to both the level of heat and humidity to which a worker is exposed.  When conducting physical labor in excessive heat, a person's body is often unable to cool itself sufficiently by merely sweating.  Workers--and their supervisors--should be on the lookout for symptoms such as heat cramps, heat rash or other signs of physical illness from being overheated.  If left unchecked, these symptoms can quickly turn to outright heat exhaustion and then heat stroke--which can prove fatal.

It may be tempting to believe that heat-related deaths occur only in overly hot states like Texas, California and other southern states, the truth is that they also occur in states with typically cooler temperatures like Wisconsin.  Many state labor groups are starting to work with OSHA to spread public education about the dangers that can crop up for workers exposed to overly hot situations without proper precautions being implemented.  In fact, there are steps that employers in any state can take to decrease the risk of heat-related injuries to their workers.

Some steps which may decrease heat-induced work injuries in Wisconsin and across the nation include scheduling frequent rest breaks, providing either air-conditioned or well-shaded areas near the work area in which to enjoy those breaks, encouraging workers to keep themselves well-hydrated and being sure to monitor workers for signs of heat exhaustion.  This list is not an exhaustive one, and workers may wish to research recommendations that OSHA makes for increasing heat-related safety.  In the event that such an injury has already been suffered, injured employees may have the right to file for workers' compensation benefits to help cover the costs they have incurred due to an on-the-job injury.

Source: lex18.com, "OSHA Announces June 4 Safety Stand-Down At Work Sites, Including Kentucky," June 3, 2013

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