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Summer brings heat, lightning risks for workers

Summer is here, which means workers in Pennsylvania and nationwide are at increased risk for heat and lightning injuries. To bring awareness to the issue, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched initiatives to encourage employers to keep their workers safe while working outdoors.

According to OSHA, 18 workers died from heat stroke and another 2,630 workers suffered heat-related illnesses in 2014. To prevent injuries and deaths this year, the agency is using the hashtag #WaterRestShade to urge employers to give their workers plenty of drinking water, frequent breaks and access to shade while working outside. The agency says that those most vulnerable to heat illnesses are the elderly, emergency responders, athletes and outdoor workers. New workers are also at an elevated risk.

OSHA is also pushing employers and workers to recognize lightning as an occupational hazard. Approximately 300 Americans are struck by lightning each year, and around 50 people die. Experts stress that lightning is unpredictable and can strike a great distance away from any rainfall. All outdoor workers are urged to go inside when thunderstorms are in the area. Employers and employees should also know in advance where to seek shelter. Fully enclosed buildings with plumbing and electrical wiring that can serve as grounds for lightning strikes are ideal. Hard-topped metal vehicles are also safe. If stuck outdoors, isolated tall structures, open spaces, water and metal objects should be avoided.

Pennsylvania workers who suffer heat- or lightning-related injuries while on the job may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. They may find it helpful to seek the advice of an attorney to ensure all documentation and timeline requirements are met.

Source: National Law Review, "Heat, Lightning Hazards are Focus of Federal Safety Campaigns," Nickole Winnett, June 13, 2016

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