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Workplace injuries: Employers must guard against heat illness

According to forecasters, summer temperatures in California and many other states are expected to be above average this year. While workplace injuries occur year round, employers are asked to pay particular attention to the dangers of heat exposure at this time of the year. Outdoor workers in many industries are at risk, including the employees of landscaping companies.

Water, rest and shade are cited as essentials for those exposed to long hours in the sun. Other precautions can help to prevent heat illness which can, in extreme cases, be fatal. Along with providing enough cold water and allowing workers to take regular breaks in shady or other cool areas, a heat acclimatization plan can be effective. Statistics indicate that about one-third of heat-related fatalities occur on the first day that workers are exposed to extreme heat, and most other deaths occur within the first three days.

Protective clothing specifically designed to prevent heat exposure and even cell phone apps are available to help prevent heat illness. Employees must be informed about the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, and procedures must be in place for emergencies. Workers must not be allowed to work in isolated areas; in fact, developing a buddy-system by which each worker keeps a lookout for tell-tale signs of heat illness in a co-worker may be wise.

Regardless of the good intentions of employers and workers to be mindful of the hazards of heat exposure this summer, some workers will once again be victims of heat exposure. Victims of occupational illnesses or workplace injuries may pursue assistance with medical expenses through the California workers' compensation insurance system. Not only will the program compensate them for medical bills, but if the severity of the illness or injury caused absences from work, the insurance fund might also award wage replacement that will be based on his or her average weekly wage.

Source: totallandscapecare.com, "Eight steps to keep your landscape workers safe in the heat", Mandy Edens, May 30, 2016

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