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Workplace deaths from heat exposure lead OHSA citations

Employers are required by law to provide a safe working environment. If, in the event an accident or any illness results from a workplace condition or event, employees are encouraged to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can cover medical expenses and lost wages that employees incur as the result of a workplace accident or occupational disease. In California, on-the-job injuries or illnesses range from equipment accidents to materials exposure or even heat-related illnesses. These situations can be serious, even leading to death.

Workplace deaths from heat exposure are the most common reason for a heat-related OSHA citation; a high percentage of these deaths occur in California. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 outlined laws for workplace safety. A section of the act, referred to as the General Duty Clause, prohibits employers from exposing their employees to environments that are dangerous and hazardous;   illnesses or deaths resulting from heat exposure are governed under this clause. 

OSHA states that every year, an average of 30 people die as a result of heat-related illnesses. As a result of this, the agency is holding stand-downs to educate workers about this problem.  Employers can receive fines for exposing their workers to such conditions without having a program in place that addresses heat-related issues. Employers are encouraged to provide water, shade, frequent breaks and immediate medical care to workers.

It is important for workers to know their rights and the laws about this and other workers’ compensation topics, including how to file for workers’ compensation benefits if the need should arise. Consulting with an experienced attorney can also be a good way to learn how to stay protected.

Source: Source: Corporate Counsel, “What employers need to know about heat-related illness,” Shannon Green, June 4, 2013

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