As we face the record-high smokin’ hot weather across our country, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has kicked off a national outreach initiative to educate workers and U.S. employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. The outreach effort builds on last year's successful summer campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of too much sun and heat.
Every year, thousands of workers across the country suffer from serious heat-related illnesses. If not quickly addressed, heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, which has killed - on average - more than 30 U.S. workers annually since 2003. Please remember a WC death claim in Illinois carries a minimum benefit for a widow or widower of over $600,000! Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but quickly can become heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if simple prevention steps are not followed.
We want our readers to understand it would be very difficult to defend such problems in the workers’ compensation arena in the four states in which we defend claims, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. While hot weather is a condition “common to the public,” someone who has to work in extreme conditions doesn’t have much of a problem showing they were exposed in a greater extent to that of the average citizen. We feel it essential for workers and employers to take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat, and become aware of symptoms of heat exhaustion before they get worse.
Please also remember the fastest growing cancer in terms of incidence and prevalence is skin cancer. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are a part of sunlight that is an invisible form of radiation. UV rays can penetrate and change the structure of skin cells. UVA is the most abundant source of solar radiation at the earth's surface and penetrates beyond the top layer of human skin. Scientists believe UVA radiation can cause damage to connective tissue and increase a person's risk for developing skin cancer. UVB rays penetrate less deeply into skin, but can still cause some forms of skin cancer. While we haven’t seen a dramatic increase in WC claims from skin cancers, it is possible that may be coming as our working population continues to age. In most states, such claims will be hard to defend. We urge risk managers to provide all of your outdoor workers sun block and intelligent clothing choices to insure their workers aren’t extensively overexposed to sunlight.
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