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Petition to OSHA details provisions for heat stress standards

South Carolina, like most states, has not instituted any protective heat standards for indoor and outdoor workers. OSHA has established no federal standards either, but 130 groups recently came together petitioning the organization to begin the rulemaking process for such standards. The groups also laid out several provisions that they believe should be included in the provisions.

Extreme heat can cause workers to develop heat stress, a potentially fatal condition. Outside of California, Washington and Minnesota, the only states with protective heat standards, there are an estimated 260,000 workers who are at risk for heat-related illnesses and deaths. From 1992 to 2016, heat stress killed 783 workers in the United States. A report from Public Citizen also mentions climate change as a factor that will only increase risk with time.

The following are a few of the provisions being petitioned for. The use of protective equipment, frequent rest breaks and access to cool places should be allowed to workers in extremely hot environments. Companies should implement plans to acclimatize new workers to the hot conditions. Employers should notify all employees about heat stress hazards and monitor at-risk employees.

Under the General Duty Clause in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA has issued citations to companies that endangered their employees in hot environments. It has long noted that the above-mentioned elements were missing.

Even if employers do everything possible to keep their workers safe, accidents can happen. In such cases, victims can file for workers compensation benefits to be covered for their medical expenses and a percentage of their lost income. This is regardless of who, if anyone, is to blame for the incident. After filing, however, victims forego their right to sue their employer for the same case. Hiring a lawyer for the filing process may be helpful, especially because claims are frequently denied.

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