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How can Connecticut's summer heat lead to workplace illnesses?

With summer in full swing in Connecticut, many men and women who work outdoors must take additional safety precautions. Why? For one, the increased temperatures, as well as high humidity, can have a significant impact on a person working outside and may lead to a serious workplace illness.

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke may result if a person is not allowed time to rest in the shade or drink sufficient water while working during hot weather. Sweating alone, which is the body's natural way of cooling itself, is not sufficient to combat serious heat. According to OSHA, 2,630 workers experienced heat illness in 2014, and 18 died from heat stroke and other heat-related effects. Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, weakness and dizziness, as well as cramps and nausea or vomiting. Heat stroke may also lead to a high temperature and convulsions or fainting.

Workers who must use bulky protective clothing or heavy equipment are particularly prone to suffering from a heat illness, but any worker performing duties in hot and humid conditions can fall prey to a heat illness. Commonly, workers in the fields of agriculture, construction, landscaping, and grounds maintenance are at risk for heat illness.

Fortunately, the serious effects from the heat are preventable, and employers must protect workers from exposure to extreme heat under OSHA regulations. Employers can prevent these work-related illnesses by monitoring workers during extreme heat to see if they are demonstrating signs of illness, by allowing workers who may not be acclimated to the heat to take more frequent breaks, as well as by providing workers with rest, shade and water.

Workers who have suffered from heat-related illnesses on the job may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. An attorney can discuss with a worker his or her available options if he or she has been injured on the job.

Source: OSHA, "Heat Illness Can Be Deadly," accessed July 15, 2016

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