2011 Heat Wave Can Injure and Kill Workers, Secretary of Labor Issues Warning: Illinois and Indiana Workers Be Careful

2011 Heat Wave Can Injure and Kill Workers, Secretary of Labor Issues Warning: Illinois and Indiana Workers Be Careful

Meteorologists are explaining the extremely high temperatures hitting Indiana and Illinois this month as being the result of a “heat dome,” which boils down to record-breaking heat of 100 degrees or more throughout much of our region, which is not prepared to deal with how hot this can really get.

Yesterday, parts of Chicago had a heat index of 112.  Today, Indianapolis is expected to reach a heat index of 120 degrees by mid-afternoon.

Heat index is the real number to monitor if you’re working outside:  the heat index measures the humidity in the air as well as the actual temperature, and this is important to humans because the humidity impacts our physical ability to sweat and disperse heat.  The higher the heat index, the more vulnerable we are to heat stroke and other potentially fatal heat-related conditions.

Workers Are Warned to Be Careful of the Heat by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

The high temperatures can be deadly, although many disregard that reality and the seriousness of being in the heat for too long, especially while physically exerting the body through exercise or hard work.  Workers can die from doing their job in this weather, and that’s the reality that both employers and employees need to respect.

In fact, Hilda Solis has issued a formal warning about this “heat dome” situation in her role as Secretary of Labor for the United States.  Here is what Secretary Solis wants you and your employer to know:

“Four weeks into the summer, the nation continues to experience record heat. For outdoor workers, this means being at risk for heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Employers must take the precautions needed to protect outdoor workers:

  • Have a work site plan to prevent heat-related illnesses and make sure that medical services are available to respond to an emergency should one occur.
  • Provide plenty of water at the job site and remind workers to drink small amounts of water frequently – every 15 minutes.
  • Schedule rest breaks throughout the work shift and provide shaded or air conditioned rest areas near the work site.
  • Let new workers get used to the extreme heat, gradually increasing the work load over a week.
  • When possible, schedule heavy tasks for earlier in the day.

“Tell workers what to look for to spot the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in themselves and their co-workers, and make sure they know what to do in an emergency. OSHA has fact sheets and posters that illustrate the signs of heat-related illnesses, and the steps that you can take to prevent them at your work site.

“Remember: water, rest, shade – the three keys to preventing heat-related illnesses in this extreme heat.”

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