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Does workers' compensation cover heat-related illnesses?

Following the recent death of a postal worker in California, a health official reminded employees to provide frequent breaks for their employers to allow them to cool down when they work in soaring temperatures. Although it is not confirmed yet, authorities suspect the postal worker's death was heat-related. She died on a day when temperatures reached 117 degrees. Many workers' compensation claims are filed each summer by employees whose bosses do not prioritize their safety.

The health official urges workers to watch each other for telltale signs of heat exhaustion. He says profuse sweating drains the body of fluids, which must be replaced by regular drinks of fresh, cold water. Workers who do not need to go to the toilet at least once every four hours and those who stop sweating might be dehydrated. When that happens, the body loses its ability to cool itself down, and internal temperatures will continue to rise. It's important to get the individual to a cool, shady area and cooled down quickly; otherwise, it could be fatal.

The official says that a headache is the first red flag, and if the worker finds it difficult to think clearly, feels dizzy and struggles to keep his or her balance, co-workers must get that person into the shade. Loosening the worker's clothes and cooling him or her down with ice packs, water sprays and fans might save his or her life. He says a worker may not even recognize the danger signs in him or herself, and watching out for each other is crucial.

Heat-related illnesses are not unusual occurrences in California, and the workers' compensation insurance system of the state will provide financial assistance to those who needed medical care after heat exposure. Furthermore, in severe cases in which employees are hospitalized and need recovery time, the benefits will also cover a portion of lost wages. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can give guidance and support throughout the benefits claims process.

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