US Labor Secretary launches national heat awareness campaign in Anaheim

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The US Secretary of Labor stopped by a recycling center in Anaheim on Tuesday to kick off a new national campaign about the danger of heat illness on the job.

Rest, shade and water: That’s the heart of the national campaign to prevent heat-related health problems on the job, especially for people who work outdoors.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says the campaign is based on one that kicked off in California last summer.

"We want people to know that they should have enough drinking water, that they should really see the signs before they become too dehydrated. And they should be taking breaks, rest and also to let their supervisor or their management personnel know they’re not feeling well," Solis says. "All these things are simple steps, but they’re rarely enforced. And so we’re trying to piggyback on what the state is doing through Cal-OSHA."

Solis says the national campaign targets workers and employers through a variety of methods, including public service announcements and its website.

"It’s also materials that we’ll put putting out in different languages," Solis says. "But also, we do have the ability to investigate if we know that there is a series of abuses, say, in a particular area. We can investigate those as well."

California was the first state to adopt heat-related workplace standards.

Cal-OSHA Deputy Director Chris Lee says the Golden State has made progress.

Six years ago, before the new standards were in place, California had a dozen heat-related workplace deaths. Last year, there were two. But Lee says there is still more to do.

"You know, if we could, perhaps better target some of the underground economy, like unlicensed contractors, construction contractors. We don’t know where they are because they’re unlicensed," Lee says. "We’d like to be able to figure out a way to get to them because the underground economy is a huge issue in the state of California, as it is in other states, as well. So being able to get information to go after those folks is a challenge, frankly."

One of the main goals of the national awareness campaign is to get the word out about the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so workers can get out of the sun and get help before it’s too late.

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