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Workplace injuries: Summer heat threatens California farm workers

Reportedly, high temperatures are expected early this summer, and the California Division of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration urged owners of farms and supervisors to take care of agricultural workers who are exposed to excessive outdoor heat. The agency used a recent heat safety-training program to remind employers of the farmworker who succumbed to the effects of heat exhaustion last year. The training aimed to make crew bosses and supervisors aware of the symptoms they need to look out for to prevent heat illness, which can be as dangerous as any other workplace injuries.

To avoid heat illness, farmworkers must have access to shaded areas wherever they work. Where no shade is available, areas must be erected to provide shade, and employees must be allowed to take frequent breaks to cool down and go to the bathroom. Cool water must also be abundantly available to workers, and supervisors must encourage them to drink water more often than they would usually drink.

Authorities say frequent hydration is the primary method of avoiding the onset of heat illness. Once symptoms of this dangerous condition become evident, an employee's life will already be at risk. Crew bosses must monitor agricultural workers throughout the day, especially when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the recent training sessions focused on farmworker safety, other industries such as construction also have employees spending long days in the sun, making them as vulnerable to heat illness as farmworkers. While employers are expected to prevent such circumstances, victims of occupational illnesses or workplace injuries are entitled to pursue financial assistance. They may file benefits claims with the California workers' compensation insurance program.

Source: abc30.com, "Preventative measures farmers are required to take to keep workers safe in the heat", Dale Yurong, April 27, 2017

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