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California lawmakers act to protect outdoor workers

While the sunny weather that California is known for is often cited as a reason for visiting the state, high temperatures can be hazardous to workers who perform many or all of their duties outdoors. OSHA has no specific standard for illnesses caused by heat, but California has made protecting outdoor workers a top legislative priority. OSHA data shows that more than 30 workers lost their lives in 2012 due to heat exposure, and thousands of others suffered an illness or injury.

California's strict heat prevention standard, which went into effect on May 1, includes provisions dealing with the availability of drinking water and shade for outdoor workers as well as establishing acceptable emergency response measures. However, employers are encouraged to take a proactive approach to reducing the number of heat-related work injuries, and OSHA has developed a smartphone application to assist them in these efforts. The app gauges the dangers faced by workers based on factors such as the temperature, wind speed and level of humidity.

An OSHA investigation found that the workers at greatest risk of a heat-related illness are those who are unaccustomed to working outdoors or are returning from a prolonged absence. The agency recommends that workers be acclimatized to hot conditions by gradually increasing the time spent working under the sun over a period of up to two weeks.

Workers who suffer an injury or develop an illness in the workplace may file a workers' compensation claim seeking benefits to cover the cost of their medical treatment and help them to cope financially while they are unable to work. However, the process can be frustrating when employers maintain that a medical condition is being exaggerated or is not work-related. An attorney with experience in this area may assist injured workers during the claims process, and they could also advocate on their behalf during workers' compensation hearings.

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