California Investigating Second Possible Heat-Related Death

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is investigating what might be the state's second heat-related death this year.

Benadino Gomez, a 49-year-old employee of Valley Pool and Plastering in Fresno, Calif., died July 20 at a worksite in Kerman, Calif., after laboring in temperatures that reached 109 degrees, according to Cal/OSHA.

Gomez's death came just a day after Joaquin Ramirez, a 38-year-old employee of Raul Hidalgo Lawn Services in Bakersfield, Calif., died from possible heat-related causes. Ramirez had been on the job only 3 days.

A rash of heat-related worker deaths last summer prompted California lawmakers to enact emergency heat illness prevention regulations last August. Permanent regulations governing heat illness prevention should be finalized soon and will establish the nation's first mandatory precautions designed to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illness and death. (See article: "California Adopts Standard to Stave Off Heat-Related Deaths.")

"Gov. Schwarzenegger worked with leaders from the labor, business and health care industries to develop heat illness prevention regulations to spare lives," said California Labor & Workforce Development Agency Secretary Victoria Bradshaw. "We are fully committed to vigorously pursuing investigations of violations of the emergency heat illness prevention regulations, while at the same time educating employers and employees who work outdoors on the precautions that must be taken."

In the wake of the two possible heat-related deaths, California safety and health officials are reminding employers and employees to keep in mind the necessary precautions needed when working in high temperatures.

The emergency heat illness prevention regulations, currently in place until the permanent ones are finalized, can be found on the California Department of Industrial Relations' Web site.

For more information about heat-related illness and its prevention, visit the Cold/Heat Stress Safety Zone.

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