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Study links higher temps with fatal heat stroke risk at work

Anyone who has lived or worked in Florida knows that the Sunshine State can get pretty hot in the summer. A study conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggests fatal heat stroke can occur even when temperatures are still in the 80s. In fact, nearly half of the fatal heat stroke cases investigated occurred when the heat index, which refers to the "feels like" temperature, was under 91 degrees.

Researchers noted that many heat-related deaths are preventable. For example, workers who wear bulky clothing and have to work in high heat and humidity are at an increased risk for heat stroke. This condition can produce symptoms such as confusion, disorientation and an inability to sweat to naturally cool the body.

Half of the 25 total cases of job-related heat stroke evaluated involved victims with preexisting health issues, such as diabetes, that increased their risk of experiencing heat stroke. Also, medications like blood pressure pills and diuretics can contribute to dehydration. Most of the fatal cases also involved workloads that ranged from moderate to very heavy. OSHA researchers suggest preventative measures that include training workplace supervisors to spot possible signs of heat stroke, providing easy access to water, scheduling frequent breaks and modifying work schedules when possible.

In situations where unsafe working conditions may have contributed to heat stroke, a workers' compensation attorney may be able to help an affected employee seek reasonable compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. If a claim is denied, legal counsel could help with the appeals process.

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