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Outdoor workers face double threat of heat and lightning

Road crews, agricultural workers, construction laborers, and all outdoor workers in New Jersey need to take safety precautions when the weather heats up. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has increased its outreach efforts to ensure that employers understand worker safety during extreme conditions that include high temperatures and lightning threats.

An informational webinar prepared by OSHA highlighted the fact that new workers face a heightened risk from the heat. Investigations of heat-related worker deaths revealed that they occurred among workers that had been on the job for three days or less. OSHA cautioned employers to make a conscious effort to acclimate new workers to hot conditions.

Thunderstorms often accompany hot weather, and OSHA advised employers to monitor weather reports and be ready to move workers to shelter when lightning starts. Lightning hits over 300 people annually in the United States. Data from the past 30 years produced an average death rate from lightning at around 50 fatalities per year. Due to the unpredictability of lightning, people should seek shelter whenever they hear thunder. Heavy rain does not have to be present for lightning to pose a danger because it can strike several miles away from the rain area.

People who have been injured on the job often face significant financial challenges when they are unable to return to work for prolonged periods. Most employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance coverage, and benefits provided thereunder can include medical treatment as well as partial wage replacement. An attorney can often be of assistance in preparing and filing the required claim.

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