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Workers' compensation issues: Heat-related illnesses

It may only be May, but higher temperatures are on the way here in Florida. This means that outdoor workers are at risk of heat-related illnesses that could cause serious injury or death. Even though workers' compensation benefits are available to those who fall ill, they would probably prefer not to become ill at all.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration agrees. Each year, OSHA institutes its campaign to make employers and employees alike aware of the dangers that the heat poses, especially to outdoor workers. Here in Florida, not only the actual temperature poses a risk, but the humidity does as well. When those two weather elements are combined with the necessity of many outdoor workers to wear heavy personal protection equipment, the risk rises even further.

Fortunately, there are steps that OSHA requires employers to take in order to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses. Workers in certain industries are at a higher risk than others. For instance, construction workers, landscapers and baggage handlers tend to work outside a large portion of the time. Employers should also be mindful of new employees who are new to working outdoors since their risk is often higher because they are not yet used to working outside.

Each summer, significant amounts of workers' compensation claims are filed due to the heat. Many do recover, but not before having to incur medical expenses and remain away from work -- often for at least several days. Even a short time off work can cause anxiety and stress regarding how expenses will be paid. An injured worker should have the freedom to focus on healing rather than dealing with the claims process. It may be beneficial to rely on an attorney to advocate for him or her throughout the process.

Source: osha.gov, "OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers", May 1, 2017

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