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Heat exposure puts California construction workers at risk

Weather forecasters are predicting California temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for the next few weeks. This leaves many outdoor workers at risk of suffering heat-related illnesses. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has urged employers to comply with heat illness prevention standards. Employers must protect construction workers and other employees who work outdoors from known hazards, one of which is heat exposure.

The safety standards require employers to establish written heat prevention plans and provide training to supervisors and workers that will enable them to recognize signs of heat exhaustion and know what action to take. Employees should also learn to look out for each other because if affected workers are not treated promptly, heat illness can cause death. Everyone must know the procedures for emergencies.

Although outdoor workers in industries like construction, agriculture and landscaping are at high risk, delivery drivers and others who spend many hours in vehicles that are not equipped with air conditioning are also vulnerable. Employers can assess each worker's exposure based on the hours they are exposed to excessive heat, and workers must be allowed to take frequent breaks in shaded areas, and have access to fresh, cool water. They should be encouraged to drink at least 8 ounces of water every hour to prevent dehydration.

Any construction workers or others who suffered the consequences of heat exhaustion might be eligible for compensation. An attorney who has experience in dealing with the California workers' compensation insurance program can be invaluable in the navigation of the benefits claims process. Along with medical expenses, the benefits will also cover lost wages for those who were temporarily disabled.

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