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As summer approaches, employers should prepare for the heat

Most North Carolina residents view summer as time to get together with family and friends for barbecues and fishing trips. Though summertime can be filled with fun, scorching-hot weather raises numerous concerns for those who work outdoors, particularly agricultural workers and road crews.

In response to concerns over the dangerous effects of heat illness, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is sponsoring a campaign to educate employees and employers about this type of workplace accident. The agency's campaign includes training tools to implement common sense safety measures at outdoor worksites.

Heat-related illnesses range in severity from the minor discomfort of a heat rash to the potentially fatal effects of heat stroke. When the body gets warm its natural reaction is to sweat in order to cool down, but when conditions are too warm, sweating alone is not adequate. As a result of intense heat, internal body temperatures can soar to dangerous levels. Medical attention is needed for those suffering the effects of severe heat illness.

In order to provide employers with simple guidelines for preventing heat illnesses, OSHA has provided a simple mantra of what is essential to stay healthy in the summer sun: "water, rest, shade." Taking time to follow these three guidelines can save a lot of trouble. Furthermore, it's beneficial to allow workers' bodies to acclimate to the heat by gradually ramping up workloads.

Finally, it is important for employers to have a clear plan to deal with heat-related illnesses. Informing staff about the basic guidelines to prevent workplace illness and what to do in the event of a health emergency can prove to be invaluable. This knowledge can prevent a fatal workplace accident.

As the summer continues to dawn on North Carolina, it is important for workers to know their rights when it comes to workplace safety and what recourse they have in the event they develop heat-related illness. Workers who end up dealing with the effects this illness may be entitled to workers' compensation if they are prevented from working due to their medical condition.

Source: The United States Department of Labor, "OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers"

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