Addressing heat-related illnesses

Illinois summers are known for being quite hot and humid and this year has been no exception to that. For people whose jobs require them to be outside, this can put them at risk of developing a heat-related illness. Most construction workers fall into this category and know firsthand the challenges they experience during the hot weather.

Sadly, the federal government tasked with mandating and managing safe environments for workers has no rules in place governing heat exposure. Instead, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration simply acknowledges the risks and risk factors that may contribute to heat exhaustion, dehydration or other heat-related injuries and illnesses. It provides light guidance on hydration, breaks and time in the sun but that is as far as it goes.

As reported by USA Today, some representatives in Congress are trying to change that. Recently, a new bill was introduced that would create federal safety standards for workers in hot outdoor environments like those experienced by construction workers. Nearby Minnesota is one of only three states that currently has their own laws but this new effort seeks to create such laws at the federal level.

In the last 10 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded more than 350 workplace fatalities associated with heat illnesses or excessive heat exposure. At least one day away from work has been missed by tens of thousands of people due to heat illnesses. This new bill seeks to end these problems by developing clear rules regarding the amount of time a person is in the sun and how they can be protected.


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