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The serious effects of workplace heat illnesses

Illinois employees may be interested to know about some of the dangers that working in a high-heat environment can present. Due to the potential for serious illnesses related to heat, procedures should be put into place to avoid or minimize the danger of these conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns employers that a failure to have safety procedures in effect could lead to the death or serious injury of their workers. The main danger is from heat stroke, which involves the body's heat regulation systems shutting down. The worker's body temperature can then reach levels greater than 104 degrees. This overheating of the body can result in death if not treated immediately. Additionally, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash are common illnesses related to high-temperature work conditions.

OSHA recommends a variety of procedures and safeguards to avoid these types of exposures. First, a program supervisor should be educated and tasked with overseeing heat illness prevention. They must then identify hazards, both environmental and personal risk factors, that can lead to excess heat. Workers should be given the opportunity to hydrate, stay in the shade and acclimate to higher temperatures. Scheduling changes should also be made, if possible, to avoid the hottest time periods in the workweek. It is important that emergency procedures areput in place in case a worker does fall victim to a heat-related illness.

When an employer does not implement and follow proper safety procedures, this can lead to serious workplace injuries. Employees who are hurt as a result may be able to file a claim for workers' compensation and other benefits. An attorney can often be of assistance to a client in the preparation and filing of the required claim.

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