Federal campaign to prevent heat deaths in the workplace - Tucson News Now

Federal campaign to prevent heat deaths in the workplace

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - It's one of the dangers of living and working in the Sonoran Desert: The summer heat can be a killer.

The federal government is launching a campaign to get workers and employers to make it a priority to prevent heat-related illnesses and death.

The theme is Water. Rest. Shade.

A member of President Obama's cabinet came to Tucson with that message Wednesday.

"We're committed to preventing as many heat illnesses this summer as possible," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said at a news conference.

Old Pueblo Cactus Nursery Manager Eliza Inverarity-Burke says, "I'm outside most of the day."

She is well aware of the dangers of not staying hydrated.

In this part of the world, where temperatures will top 100 during the summer, heat is a health issue for anyone who works outside. 

Todd Savord is a general superintendent for HSL Construction Services is the general contractor on a construction job in northwest Tucson.

"It's very important. It's part of safety. We do have weekly meetings. Some of the issues that we talk about is hydration," Savord says. 

That's a company doing what Solis came to Tucson to talk about.

Solis says the campaign is meant to educate all employers and workers, on how to prevent heat- related deaths and injuries.

Solis said more than 500 Pima County residents died of heat exposure between 1992 and 2009.

She also said the percentage of Hispanic workers who die because of the heat is greater than that of white workers.

"Yes, because people work outside in construction, landscaping," Solis says.

"Our first priority is to let the public know that workers need to be mindful and be responsible and also the businesses have to be responsible as well," Solis says.

While there are federal laws regarding general workplace safety, there are no regulations directly related to heat exposure.

Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva says this campaign may change that.

"It's going to make many members of Congress, particularly in the Southwest, realize that maybe there has to be regulatory guidelines for both employers and employees, and then for the Department of Labor to be able to enforce," Grijalva says.

It comes down to common sense.

When it's hot, remember water, rest and shade; and know when to get help.

"So a lot of it is just taking precautions, common sense. Resting, drinking water and informing someone if you're not feeling well, if you're feeling dizzy, headaches, nausea. That you let your employer know that," Solis says.

Inverarity-Burke helps keep things safe at the cactus nursery.

"We watch each other to make sure. We kind of work in pairs so, if there's a problem during the summer, we kind of help each other out," she says. 

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

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