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The long, hot summer: heat-related injuries and deaths at work

At the beginning of summer, we wrote about the risk of heat-related injuries and illnesses to workers. As we discussed in our June 14 post, accidents and injuries on the job caused by excessive heat harm far too many workers every year.

Today, as summer winds down and Labor Day awaits, let's take a moment to check in again on the important issue of heat-related accidents and injuries.

To be sure, workers who are injured on the job have the protections of the workers' compensation system. In Maryland and other states, those protections are very important. But the work comp system cannot proactively prevent heat-related harm from happening at work. Employers must shoulder that responsibility and do their part to take the right preventive steps.

And yet, nationally, there have been an average of more than 30 worker fatalities from heat-every year over the past decade.

Outdoor workers are obviously greatly affected by the risk of elevated heat. Construction workers, for example, often work in hot conditions. So do many grounds maintenance and sanitation workers, and of course farmers. Indeed, any job that calls for being outside in the summer for long periods of time is one that could put an employee at risk of heat-related illness or injury.

But indoor workers can be at risk of heat-related problems as well. In many workplaces, there is insufficient control over the indoor climate. 

Given what we know about climate change and global warming, the problem of excessive heat for extended periods putting workers at risk will not solve itself. It will require concerned action by employers, employee and safety agencies to put proper preventive measures in place.

Source: The Equation, "Feeling the Heat on Labor Day," Kathleen Rest, August 29, 2013

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