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How can employers protect workers from extreme heat?

New York workers can be subject to a variety of harsh conditions while on the job. Sometimes those conditions can be mitigated by employers. However, there are certain situations -- like weather conditions -- that are outside of an employer's control. One particularly dangerous situations is extreme heat. Without the right protections, workers can suffer a variety of illnesses as a result of working in a hot environment. These illnesses include heat rash, cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be deadly without treatment.

There are a variety of preventative measures, however, that can be taken to protect workers against the dangers of heat. In particular, educating employees about the dangers of warm temperatures can go a long way in preventing harmful workplace illnesses. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, both supervisors and workers should understand the dangers that heat creates for the body.

Furthermore, OSHA suggest that workers be given water throughout their work shift. Workers should specifically be told that they need to drink at least six ounces of water every 15 minutes and that their urine should be lightly colored. Additionally, they should be warned about the dangers of drinking too much water -- no more than 12 quarts per day.

OSHA also says that workers should be provided with scheduled breaks out of the heat, and, if possible, work times should be moved to cooler times of the day. Employers may also want to consider limiting heavy lifting and other physical demands on hot days.

By taking precautions, New York employers can reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses to workers. These precautions, however, may not be enough and accidents could occur. In those cases, injured workers should not hesitate to explore their legal options with an attorney.

Source: OSHA Fact Sheet, "Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat," accessed on July 27, 2014

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