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Keeping workers safe from the heat in five steps

Employers in New Jersey who want to help keep their workers safe from the summer heat should consider the following five tips. The heat from the sun, as well as the heat generated by machines and by the wearing of personal protective equipment, can all lead to heat-related illnesses. Every year, more than 1,300 workers die from excessive heat.

Perhaps the first step is to educate workers on the hazards of heat exposure and the symptoms of heat stress. Employers could consider the 45-minute Heat Illness Prevention Program offered online. OSHA carries many training resources, too. At the same time, employers could create an injury and illness prevention program that lays out the ways to identify heat hazards.

Third, the supervisors should have a daily assessment tool for measuring risks to worker health based on the heat index. OSHA and NIOSH have collaborated on a mobile app called the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool, which can help in preparing for outdoor work.

Implementing engineering controls is the fourth tip. Portable evaporator coolers can work well in place of central AC if the latter is impractical or overly costly. Lastly, employers may want to develop a heat acclimation program. They could also have workers out earlier or later in the day to keep them from the midday heat.

These preventative measures will not reduce illness rates to zero, though they will reduce the risk that employers run of facing a personal injury claim. Those who are injured on the job may file for workers' compensation benefits, but before they do, they may want a lawyer to evaluate their case. They might even retain their lawyer in the event that they need to mount an appeal. If successful, victims may be covered for medical bills and short- or long-term disability leave.

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