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Heat illness may have been the cause of Missouri worker's death

Every summer, before the onset of extreme heat, employers are reminded about the dangers to which outdoor workers are exposed and the most appropriate steps to take to prevent heat illness. The precautions are not complicated, nor are they costly, and involve providing enough cold water and shade in which to take regular breaks from the direct heat of the sun. Yet, every year there are reports of workers nationwide, including in Missouri, succumbing to heat illness.

An employee of a Missouri turf farm was recently declared dead after he was found unresponsive on a site of a housing project where a work crew was laying sod. Reportedly, the man told a co-worker at about 2:30 p.m. that he felt unwell and needed to lie down. Several workers reported asking him whether he was okay during the afternoon, but nobody recognized the tell-tale signs of heat exhaustion.

The unresponsive body of the 47-year-old father of five was found more than four hours later where he was still lying on the gravel rock. A passing police officer was flagged down by one of the workers, and an ambulance was summoned. Emergency workers confirmed that the man was already dead before they arrived.

Reportedly, these workers were exposed to a heat index of 105 degrees. Failure to protect workers from conditions that can cause heat illness is unacceptable, and the disregard of this Missouri company might have resulted in a mother and five children having to cope on their own. Fortunately, claims for death benefits may be pursued through the workers' compensation insurance system. These benefits normally include funds to cover a funeral and burial along with wage replacement to help with the daily financial needs of the victim's dependents immediately after the death of their loved one.

Source: fox4kc.com, "Worker laying sod for Missouri company likely suffered heat stroke; OSHA investigates death", Aug. 16, 2016

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