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July 20, 2011

State Issues Safety Tips for Workers During Record Heat Wave
Illinois Department of Labor Reminding Workers, Employers About Risks of Working in High Temperatures

CHICAGO–As temperatures continue to rise across the Midwest, the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is reminding workers about the hazards of working in hot weather and how to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.

“People who work outdoors and in many industrial settings can become extremely sick from heat exposure,” said Joe Costigan, Director, Illinois Department of Labor.  “We want to make sure that employees and employers are aware of potential heat-related injuries and are prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure workers remain healthy and safe on the job.”

Millions of Illinois workers are at risk for heat-related illnesses.  Heat illness occurs when the body temperatures rise to dangerous levels and can range from heat rash and heat cramps, to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fainting, weakness or wet skin, irritability or confusion.  Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention as it can result in death.

Per state law, employers are required to provide a safe and healthy work environment and to notify and educate the employees on the potential hazards in the workplace.  For more information on how to prevent heat-related illnesses in the workplace, contact the Illinois Department of Labor at (217) 782-9386 or log on to www.state.il.us/agency/idol.

The Department recommends the following tips:

Employees should:

• Drink water often to remain hydrated
• Take breaks often to stay cool
• Limit work time during excessively high temperatures

Employers are encouraged to:

• Implement heat-stress awareness training and emergency plan; include this information in formats understandable by non-English speaking employees
• Help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more
• Increase workloads gradually and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work
• Look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others during hot weather

The Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 700 people die each year from exposure to extreme heat conditions, both indoors and out.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States – claiming more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.



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