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Beware: The sun can cause serious workplace injuries and illness

At this time every year, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health focuses on the dangers posed by the sun by reminding employers in San Diego and across the state of their responsibilities to protect employees from known hazards. The effects of heat illness can lead to workplace injuries. Employers must provide cool, shaded areas where workers can take frequent cool-down breaks when temperatures reach 80 degrees.

However, if heat exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit, mandatory 10-minute breaks should be taken at two-hour intervals. Fresh water must be provided at no charge to workers. Employees must be encouraged not to wait until they feel thirsty but to drink at least one quart of cool water per hour throughout their shifts. Safety training is crucial, and workers must learn how to recognize the early warning signs of heat illness in themselves and co-workers.

Mandating a buddy system is a good idea because one of the early symptoms is confusion, and being watched by a co-worker can ensure prompt action. All employees must have easy access to communication, be it cell phones or two-way radios, to call for help in emergencies. Supervisors or other designated workers must monitor workers for symptoms of heat exhaustion and make sure they go for frequent breaks and take in enough fluids to avoid dehydration.

Despite Cal/OSHA's efforts to keep workers safe, heat-related workplace injuries lead to lost workdays every summer. The California workers' compensation insurance system covers the medical expenses and lost wages of all injured workers. Many of them choose to utilize the skills of an experienced San Diego attorney to navigate the benefits claims for them while they can focus on recovering and getting back to work.

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