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Heat-related death

An archaeological worker died of a heat-related illness on her first day on the job.

On July 11, 2022, a four-person crew was working on a dig in Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest as the temperature reached 98° F. The heat index reached as high as 107° F during the six-hour survey project.

The company, which also specializes in historic preservation, had no acclimatization process for employees. Additionally, supervisors and co-workers didn’t have the knowledge and training to recognize symptoms of heat-related illness.

The company’s heat safety plan for the site only briefly mentioned rest “when needed” and no work/rest schedule was established. Also, the employer had no provisions for a cool rest area.

Heat index: 107 F

The heat index reached as high as 107 F on the day of the incident.

OSHA/legal actions: Because OSHA has no standard on heat exposure, the agency cited the employer under the General Duty Clause, or Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The serious violation resulted in a $13,052 fine. That was reduced to $10,442 after an informal settlement.

Resolution: The employer revised its heat-related illness prevention program. Those changes included monitoring the work environment as well as establishing work/rest schedules, acclimatization procedures and annual training.

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