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Heat-related illness in the workplace and how to prevent it

Both indoor and outdoor workers in Pennsylvania may be concerned about the summer heat and how it will impact their health. Besides the heat from the sun, the heat generated by machinery or by layers of protective clothing can lead workers to suffer from heat stress and other heat-related illnesses. Heat-related worker deaths number more than 1,300 every year according to EPA estimates.

Sometimes, employees are not even trained on identifying heat-related hazards and the symptoms of heat-related illness. This is where employers must lay down preventative measures, starting with heat stress prevention training and the development of an injury and illness prevention program. This program should be tailored to the size of the crew, the length of workers' shifts and temperatures in the area.

Next, employers should make tools available that measure the risk for heat-related illness based on that day's heat index. The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is one easy-to-use mobile app. The tools should be listed in the IIPP when that is put down in writing.

Having some sort of air conditioning, be it through central AC or a portable unit, is also essential. A last preventative measure lies in administrative controls. Perhaps employers can set up a heat acclimation program or rearrange workers' shifts so that they avoid working at midday.

These steps are sure to at least reduce the number of worker injuries. In the event of an injury, workers' comp could provide victims with benefits that cover their medical expenses and certain other losses. Employers do have the right to deny payment if employees caused their own injuries, so victims may need a lawyer to represent them and mount an appeal. Those already receiving benefits might ask about opting for a lump sum settlement.

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