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Despite warnings, employers lack heat illness prevention programs

Despite authorities issuing warnings about the dangers of heat illness and the importance for employers to establish effective management programs to prevent heat stress, instances of workers suffering this dangerous illness continue to occur nationwide. Not only must Missouri employers take the necessary steps to protect workers against excessive heat, but all employees must be informed of the symptoms of heat illness. Taking timely action upon the first signs of distress may save a life.

Following a recent investigation into a June incident of heat illness, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited an asbestos removal contractor in another state. Investigators determined that workers were removing asbestos in a sealed area with no ventilation on a day when outside temperatures were measured at 96.5 degrees. Workers were apparently not supplied with water, nor were they allowed regular breaks.

One worker reportedly started experiencing typical heat stress symptoms such as excessive sweating, cramping and vomiting. When the symptoms were still present the following day, the worker was hospitalized for more than a week. OSHA determined that this incident was entirely preventable had the employer complied with safety regulations and established a prevention program.

Missouri workers who have to deal with the consequences of occupational illnesses, such as heat stress, may suffer a significant loss in income while also having to face high medical bills. Most workers are entitled to pursue financial assistance by claiming workers' compensation benefits. The insurance system typically provides funds to cover all medical costs related to the illness along with a percentage of the affected worker's ordinary income as a package to make up for lost wages.

Source: safety.blr.com, "Worker hospitalized for heat stress; Employer cited", Oct. 2, 2015

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