With an estimated 1,300 workers dying from heat-related illness each year in Pennsylvania and across the U.S., employers must do all they can to keep their workers safe during the warmer months. There are several protective actions that employers can take.
All employers should develop an injury and illness prevention program. If tailored to the size of the workforce, the length of workers’ shifts and the area temperatures, an IIPP can help workers identify heat-related hazards and do something to reduce them. Employers should also receive heat stress prevention training so that they know the impact of heat on health and the symptoms of heat stress.
There are tools that assess the impact of heat daily. Employers may consider, for example, the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app that measures the risk for heat stress based on the job site’s heat index. Such a tool should be listed in the IIPP.
Next come engineering controls. If central AC is unavailable or too expensive to acquire, business owners could purchase portable evaporative coolers. Administrative controls, such as scheduling changes that help workers avoid working in the midday heat, are also recommended. If employers need to reduce work shifts in extreme heat, the benefit is that workers will remain healthy and, thus, productive.
Yet there are times when workplace injuries arise despite all the precautions an employer takes. In such cases, victims may not be able to file a personal injury claim, but they can still file for workers’ compensation benefits. Filing does not require victims to show anyone to be at fault, but it may mean facing opposition from the employer. With an attorney, victims may mount an appeal. They might also learn the pros and cons of opting for a settlement.