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Workplace injury: Indoor workers can also suffer heat illness

The summer of 2016 will always be remembered for its extreme heat. In fact, an announcement by NASA stated that July's temperatures were higher than any temperatures for any month recorded in history. In times of extreme heat, extra attention must be paid to the health and safety of workers nationwide, including in Colorado. Heat exposure can cause severe workplace injury or illness.

Employers of outdoor workers such as landscapers and construction workers are frequently reminded of their responsibilities to provide lots of cool water and adequate shade where workers can take breaks. However, some indoor conditions can also be hazardous. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that the heat-exposure rules for indoor workplaces are not as specific as those for outdoor workers. However, the responsibilities to provide safe work environments are the same for all business owners.

After a report had been received about the unbearable heat in a discount store in another state, OSHA said business owners must have definite plans in place to handle high temperatures that may adversely affect the health of their employees. For example, immediate repairs must be done when faulty air conditioners are reported. The corporate headquarters of the Bakersfield store reportedly knew about the broken air conditioning and said it would be fixed as soon as possible.

Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat illness that can even cause death. As with any workplace injury, a person who suffers an occupational illness can pursue recovery of medical expenses and lost wages. Benefits claims may be filed with the Colorado workers' compensation insurance system. In cases in which a worker's illness causes him or her to be away from work, a wage replacement package based on his or her average weekly wage will also be awarded.

Source: kerngoldenempire.com, "Heat in the workplace: rules and standards for indoor temperatures", Olivia Lavoice, Aug. 19, 2016

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