One sign that summer is here in Illinois is orange construction barrels on the state's streets and highways. Construction work, whether it is road work or structure building is an important part of our state's economy. But when summer heats up, it can be very dangerous for those working outside.
For this reason, in 2011 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a "Heat Illness Prevention" initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to provide information to both employers and employees on the hazards associated with working when it is hot outside. In essence, the agency's message is as follows: Water. Rest. Shade.
According to OSHA, dozens of workers lose their lives and thousands of workers are made ill each year due to working when it is very hot outside. This is especially true in the construction industry, which sees 40 percent of these types of deaths. No matter what a worker's age or health, heat illnesses are a real concern.
Per law, employers must keep their workplaces safe, which includes preventing heat illnesses. For example, employers should make sure their employees have water, rest breaks, and a shady or air-conditioned place in which to cool down. In addition, new workers should be given the chance to gradually become accustomed to the heat. There should be an emergency plan in place that employees know how to follow in the event that a worker comes down with a heat illness. Finally, employers should keep an eye on their employees for signs that they might be experiencing a heat illness.
Construction workers, as well as workers in other fields, who are exposed to hot conditions must be kept safe from heat illnesses. If an employer fails in this duty and a worker dies, that worker's family may want to contact an attorney who can assess their case and determine whether filing a wrongful death suit is appropriate.