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Workers' compensation benefits cover heat-related illnesses

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently reminded company owners of the dangers posed by heat exposure. Employers were urged to protect outdoor workers and also employees who are exposed to excessive indoor temperatures. During heat waves, temperatures can soar to level over 90 degrees, and workers can suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Many of these cases will lead to workers' compensation benefits claims.

Thousands of employees in Illinois suffer from heat exposure every summer; sadly, some of them do not survive. Fatalities resulting from heat illness are always preventable, and precautionary steps are not complicated. However, some employers fail to understand that new employees -- or those returning after an absence from work -- must be allowed to acclimatize and get their bodies used to the heat before letting them work in the sun for a full day. A significant number of heat-illness fatalities occur within the first three days of employment.

Once acclimated, workers must drink water at 15-minute intervals -- even if they are not thirsty. They must be allowed to take regular breaks to rest in cool, shaded or air conditioned areas, and wear light clothing -- both in color and in weight. All employees should receive the necessary safety training to teach them how to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and know how to handle emergencies. Workers must be encouraged to watch out for each other to ensure prompt treatment as soon as telltale signs are noticed.

Illinois workers who have had to undergo medical treatment due to heat illness are entitled to pursue financial assistance. They may file workers' compensation benefits claims, which typically cover all medical expenses immediately. If an employee was hospitalized or absent from work to recuperate after such an illness, additional temporary disability benefits might be awarded to make up for a portion of lost wages.

Source:, "Keep it cool while on the job", June 21, 2017

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