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Summer heat can injure Maryland workers

The summer of 2011 has been a hot one indeed. With record heat gripping the East Coast, many Maryland workers in outdoor jobs find themselves vulnerable to heat-related workplace injuries.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, July was the hottest month on record in most U.S. states, and workers who experience heat related injuries may not always show immediate signs of their injuries. After all, a heat injury is an invisible type of injury when compared to a fractured bone, a contusion, or a laceration.

According to OSHA's most recent data available, 33 workers died on the job because of high heat in 2009, and workers in mining, agriculture and construction were the most likely workers to be affected by the heat. In fact, most heat-related injuries are not fatal, but they can have lingering effects. According to OSHA, roofers have the highest rate of heat injuries. Out of every 10,000 full-time roofers, six workers suffered a heat injury in 2009.

Other occupations that have a high risk of a heat injury include baggage handlers, foundry workers, highway construction crews, and agricultural workers. Workers in all of these occupations have very little chance to escape the heat.

OSHA believes that a major problem that can contribute to heat injuries is a lack of acclimation to the heat. In areas that only see high temperatures a few months out of the year, workers have less of a chance to get used to the heat and are more vulnerable to heat injuries.

Employers can take some simple steps to prevent heat-related injuries to their workers. OSHA suggests having a work site plan to prevent heat injuries and to have a plan in place to have medical treatment available. Additionally, employers should provide plenty of water for workers at the job site and encourage workers to drink water often in order to prevent dehydration. Importantly, employees need to have a cool rest area that is either air conditioned or in the shade to allow employees to cool down.

Source: MSNBC, "Feeling the heat: Most dangerous summer jobs," Eve Tahmincioglu, Aug. 8, 2011

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