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Retailer finally acts to prevent North Carolina heat illnesses

Not long after media outlets uncovered inhospitable working conditions at multiple North Carolina Dollar General stores, management has finally taken the right steps. Reports indicated that multiple stores were not air conditioned, which opened the door to a workplace accident in the form of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

As the summer continues to swelter, it is important for employers to take the right measures to protect employees from heat-related illnesses, which can result in death. There are a number of steps employers can take to prevent workers from sustaining debilitating illnesses on the job. Unfortunately, in the case of North Carolina Dollar General stores, it took a well-publicized media investigation to instigate the proper reforms.

Reports indicated that the conditions inside stores were so bad that some people refused to shop there. The conditions were unbearable for customers who spent a short amount of time in the heat, and were only worse for employees who spent hours in the unrelenting heat.

After initial reports were released, Dollar General said they would make sure each store had functioning air conditioning units, but one particular location was without working air conditioning for months afterward. With prodding, the store's air conditioning unit was finally repaired.

This story comes as a great reminder for North Carolina employers. Our state's excessive heat in the summer requires that certain precautions must be taken in order to preserve the well-being of employees. Though this predominately applies to those who work outside in the heat, such actions may have to be taken for those who work indoors as well.

In addition to taking safety precautions to prevent an on-the-job illness, North Carolina employers must carry workers' compensation insurance, in case safety measures are not enough to prevent workplace injury or illness. This coverage provides financial assistance for employees in a time of distress.

Unfortunately, employers are not always responsive in the ways they should be. When employers refuse to disburse benefits as appropriate, employees may have legal recourse to claim the benefits that will provide essential financial relief.

Source: WNCT-TV News, "Update: Dollar General Air Conditioning Investigation," July 14, 2012

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