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Work-related illness: OSHA says heat stroke death preventable

Every year, thousands of workers lose their lives in workplace accidents. Employers in Missouri and elsewhere are responsible for the safety and health of employees while they are on duty. However, not all injuries involve broken bones or skull fractures. Some suffer occupational illnesses that are caused by conditions at work. One such work\-related illness is heat stroke, and it caused the death of a worker in Poplar Bluff this past July; federal investigators have since determined that this fatality was avoidable.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the death of this 23-year-old landscaping employee was the 16th heat-related death reported so far this year. The victim was employed by a landscaping company from another state, and he reportedly worked a nine-hour shift, exposed to direct sunlight, before his collapse. The heat index on that day was reported to be 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and OSHA says being in direct sunlight can raise the index by approximately 15 degrees.

OSHA said the man was admitted to a hospital after he collapsed, and his core body temperature at that time was reported to be higher than 108 degrees. Investigators found that the landscaping company had no safety protocols related to heat exposure prevention, nor did it have an acclimatization program to help workers adapt to environments with extreme heat conditions. The agency says, along with providing adequate amounts of cold water and breaks in shaded areas, these are the primary safety precautions to prevent heat stroke.

When a work-related illness that could have been prevented claims the life of a loved one, the surviving family members will naturally struggle to cope with the loss. During this difficult time, they will also have to deal with the costs of end-of-life arrangements and the sudden loss of income. Fortunately, the Missouri workers' compensation insurance system provides death benefits that will cover these losses and may ease the financial burden.

Source: osha.gov, "Landscaping company cited after 23-year-old workersuccumbs to fatal heat stroke in 110-degree weather", Sept. 27, 2016

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