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Heat causes preventable employee kidney failure

A workplace injury accident is often unexpected or caused by an unfortunate and unstoppable combination of events. However, there are also preventable injuries caused by unsafe working conditions in Connecticut.

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration cited a contractor in the state earlier this fall after a worker was hospitalized for acute dehydration and kidney failure that was caused by heat stress. OSHA found that the employer did not operate a program to educate and protect its workers about heat stress hazards. OSHA imposed a $2,800 fine and ordered compliance. The employer could appeal the OSHA violation and sanctions.

The absence of this program played a role in this June 2015 workplace accident, according to OSHA. The worker and his co-workers were engaged in asbestos abatement inside a sealed containment area in a gutted brick building in Hartford. The outside heat index reached as high as 96.5 degrees while this work was ongoing.

The injured worker began sweating excessively, vomiting and cramping, and was subsequently hospitalized for eight days. OSHA determined that fellow workers did not recognize these heat stress symptoms because of the lack of training. The hospitalization and serious injuries suffered by the worker could have been prevented if the employer had a proper heat stress management training program for its workers.

This program would have allowed the injured employee and his fellow workers to recognize heat hazards, acclimate to these hazards and ensure there was adequate water, rest and shade. The workers should have received instruction to take preventive actions and recognize heat stress symptoms.

OSHA also found that the heat hazard increased in the interior of the building because there was no fresh air intake and the employers were wearing Tyvek suits and personal protective equipment. There were inadequate water and work breaks.

Workers who are injured at work, regardless of the fault of their employer, are entitled to workers' compensation in Connecticut. However, an employer's negligence increases the risk of these accidents.

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "OSHA asks Connecticut employers to safeguard workers after heat leads to employee's kidney failure," Acessed Nov. 9, 2015

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