OSHA warns workers to keep cool on these hot days

This has been one of the hottest summers on record for much of the country, including Massachusetts. While the extreme heat is an annoyance to most of us, it can be downright dangerous for those who work outdoors. That is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a campaign to keep workers safe.

OSHA’s campaign has one simple message for workers and their employers: “Water. Rest. Shade. The work can’t get done without them.”

The campaign is meant to prevent the thousands of heat-related illnesses that occur on the job annually in the United States. Even more troubling is that extreme heat takes the lives of many workers each year in the country, especially in the agriculture, construction and mining industries.

“The symptoms of heat are often not easily recognizable,” an OSHA spokesman told msnbc.com. “July was hottest on record in most of the U.S., and it’s important for all employers and workers to be aware of this.”

According to OSHA records, there were 33 workers who died on the job in 2009 due to the heat. The OSHA spokesman said that while the deaths are most common in the hottest states, this year states that usually don’t have this problem will need to look out for it.

“One of factors of heat fatalities is acclimation,” he said. “Places where heat is not a normal condition are of great concern, including North Central states and New England.” Therefore, Massachusetts employers and their workers need to be especially conscious of the heat.

Workers who suffer heat-related injuries on the job will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages and medical expenses. However, the heat exposure must be caused while at work or at a work function, msnbc.com explained.

Workers may also have the option to bring a personal injury lawsuit against their employer for injuries sustained due to heat exposure. However, it must be proven that the employer knew or had reason to know that the worker was being subjected to a clearly unsafe environment but ordered the work to continue nonetheless.

Source: msnbc.com, “Feeling the heat: Most dangerous summer jobs,” Eve Tahmincioglu, Aug. 8, 2011.