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Gelman: The Dangers of Heat Illness

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As temperatures rise in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds employers to protect their employees from the dangers of working in hot weather.

Jon L. Gelman

Jon L. Gelman

OSHA’s message is simple: water, rest, shade. Employers should encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes, and take frequent rest breaks in shaded areas. Employers should also:

  • Develop an emergency plan that explains what to do when a worker shows signs of heat-related illness.
  • Train workers on the hazards of heat exposure, and how to prevent it.
  • Allow workers to build a tolerance for working in heat.

The New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act "provides for the awarding of workers' compensation benefits to victims of heat stroke or sunstroke in cases in which personal injury, or death, can be shown to have arisen out of and in the course of employment. Case law has generally provided for the awarding of compensation benefits in instances in which a previously healthy individual has succumbed to the effects of heat or sunstroke following a specific accident at work."

Also, "Where a foreman for a corporation observes circumstances transpiring in his presence leading reasonably to the conclusion that a workman, while working in the discharge of his duty under him, has sustained an injury, the foreman has knowledge of the injury within the purview of the Workers' Compensation Act, and his knowledge is imputed to his employer, the corporation."

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is a free, downloadable app that calculates a work site’s heat index and displays the associated risk levels. Users can receive precautionary recommendations specific to heat index risk levels to help protect employees from heat-related illness. The tool is available in English and Spanish.

OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure page explains the symptoms of heat illness, first aid measures to provide while waiting for help, training, engineering controls and work practices to reduce workers’ exposure to heat.

Claimants' attorney Jon L. Gelman is the author of "New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law" and co-author of the national treatise "Modern Workers’ Compensation Law." He is based in Wayne, New Jersey. This blog post is republished with permission.

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