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Workplace injuries: Cal/OSHA works on heat illness prevention

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reports that 74 outdoor workers suffered heat illness last year. One of the victims was a landscaper who lost his life. The agency is proactive in its quest to limit the number of heat-related workplace injuries this coming summer.

The early start with the program is to get employers in construction, landscaping and agriculture to acclimatize workers. This is to prepare workers who are used to working in temperatures in the range of 60 and 70 degrees, for the dangers of working in temperatures that could exceed 90 degrees. Workers who are new to these industries can also benefit from gradual exposure to outdoor heat.

Cal/OSHA says all supervisors should learn about the dangers of heat illness and the symptoms to look out for. They should also have CPR and first aid training. Workers are entitled to ask for shade as soon as temperatures reach 85 degrees, and they must be allowed to take frequent cool-down breaks with access to fresh water. They also must be encouraged to be alert for tell-tale signs of heat illness in co-workers and get help when necessary.

The agency says indoor workers in places like bakeries, warehouses and packing houses could also be at risk, and safety standards for indoor heat exposure are being established. Victims of heat-related and other workplace injuries can turn to the California workers' compensation insurance system to cover their medical expenses and lost wages. Legal counsel can assist with the benefits claims procedure while injured workers focus on recovery and returning to work.

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