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OSHA to investigate possible heat-related death at LaGrange plant

Last week we discussed the issue of heat-related illnesses in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been conducting a public awareness campaign that included voluntary stand-downs at many Southeastern United States construction sites last week. It is important to note that heat-related illnesses are not confined to the construction industry. Workers in plant, manufacturing facilities and many other industries may be exposed to excessive heat while on the job.

OSHA investigators are looking into workplace safety conditions at an auto plant in LaGrange, Georgia after a worker collapsed and later died. Authorities from OSHA’s Atlanta West office plan to look into the fatality at the plant to determine whether the tragedy was heat related. Sources say that the woman who died had complained of difficulty in breathing—sources believe that the woman overheated in the plant, which allegedly is poorly ventilated.

The woman reportedly worked on a project weld line at the Sewon America Plant in LaGrange, which produces parts for Kia, according to the LaGrange Citizen. The Troup County Coroner confirmed that the worker had died after complaining about difficulty in breathing at the plant, but authorities transferred the woman’s body to the crime lab in Atlanta, Georgia, for an autopsy. Results of the autopsy could take several months.

Workers say that the air conditioning on the assembly line was not working properly, and several other workers at the plant had passed out from heat inside the facility, according to the LaGrange Citizen. On the day that the 42-year-old worker collapsed, she suffered symptoms, according to workers from the plant. Co-workers say that the woman was sent to a break room, which reportedly was not air conditioned. Workers say that management keeps the air off to avoid loitering of employees.

Sources say that the woman was eventually sent to an office at the plant, where she waited for hours before an ambulance was called. The worker died en route to the hospital, according to a co-worker. OSHA is investigating the allegations, and the woman’s death.

Source: The LaGrange Citizen, “OSHA Opens Sewon Safety Investigation,” June 4, 2013; The LaGrange Citizen, “Sewon Employee Dies After Allegedly Working In Extreme Heat,” June 3, 2013

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