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Beating the heat: outdoor workers urged to take precautions

After a colder-than-usual spring in many parts of the country, summer has at least arrived. But as welcome as the warm weather is, it comes with its own particular set of risks. 

In the Baltimore area and elsewhere as well, one of those risks of summer is heat-related accidents or illnesses on the job. Construction workers and others who work outside can be put in harm's way by excessive heat. And employers must do their part to provide adequate protections.

To be sure, it isn't only high heat that can present problems for outside workers. Thunderstorms, lightning strikes and other severe weather conditions often occur when the weather heats up as well.

But it is heat illness that is the target of a safety initiative by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has been working on this campaign since 2011 and has already reached more than 7 million people.

OSHA has developed  materials to help employers conduct training on heat-related dangers in the workplace. It has also developed a free application for mobile devices to help prevent heat-related harm. The app will enable workers and their supervisors to assess risk level based on the heat index.

OSHA's safety campaign urges employers to remind workers about the importance of regular water intake, taking rest breaks and recognizing the dangers of working in hot conditions.

Heat illnesses can range widely in severity. Heat rashes and heat cramps are warning signs that should not be ignored. Even more serious are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Indeed, heat stroke can be fatal in some cases if not treated promptly.

That is why "beat the heat" is not merely a slogan that could be used against the Miami Heat basketball team. Those three words summarize the task at hand for all outdoor workers and their employers as the summer unfolds.

Source: WEKU, "New OSHA APP meant to Keep Workers Cooler," Stu Johnson, June 3, 2013 Additoinal source: "Welcome to OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illnesses in Outdoor Workers,"  

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