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Worker death from heat stroke cited as serious violation by OSHA

An Illinois company was cited by the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a worker died of a case of heat stroke that he suffered on his first day on the job. The fatal accident showed the need for employers to break in new employees slowly, the safety agency said. OSHA also stated that companies should let new workers get acclimated to the high-heat conditions with a regimen of rest, shade and adequate hydration.

The 36-year-old employee was working on Chicago's Dan Ryan Red Line project for an electrical firm contracted by the Chicago Transit Authority. He reportedly became ill with heat stroke while working in an uncovered trench in late June heat. OSHA said that an investigation revealed that the company did implement an effective and adequate protocol while dealing with the worker's heat stress. The worker was carrying heavy piping while exposed to the sun, OSHA stated. He collapsed and died the next day.

OSHA's citation classified the electrical company's failure to provide a workable heat stress program as a serious violation. The designation is used when a hazard that an employer knew about or should have known about runs a high probability of causing death or serious physical harm. The penalty proposed for the violation was $7,000, and OSHA would allow only 15 business days from when the company received the citation to pay the penalty, request a conference with an OSHA official or contest the findings with an independent review commission.

Catastrophic injury can result, as in this case, from a company not following OSHA guidelines. The family of a worker killed in similar accidents may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. In some cases, the family members may be entitled to compensation for damages related to the accident, such as final expenses and lost wages.

Source: OSHA, "Aldridge Electric cited by US Labor Department's OSHA after heat-related death of worker in Chicago Employee became ill on his first day on the job", Scott Allen, December 02, 2013

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