The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a national outreach initiative to educate workers and employers about the hazards of working outside in hot weather. The effort builds on last year’s successful summer campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of too much sun and heat.
With the temperatures so far this summer breaking records across the country, there is no better time to focus on heat-related issues affecting employers and workers.
“For outdoor workers, water, rest, and shade are three words that can make the difference between life and death,” said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. “If employers take reasonable precautions, and look out for their workers, we can beat the heat.”
Who is affected?
Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.
What is heat illness?
The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
How can heat illness be prevented?
Remember three simple words—water, rest, shade. Drinking water often, taking breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans.
Have employees gradually build up to heavy work in hot conditions. This helps them build a tolerance to the heat—or become acclimated. Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat or who have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
Also, it’s important that your employees know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in themselves and others during hot weather.
Annually, thousands of workers suffer from serious heat-related illnesses. If not quickly addressed, heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, which kills about 30 workers a year.
OSHA has developed heat education materials in both English and Spanish, plus a training curriculum, and a free mobile app that helps workers and supervisors monitor the heat index at their worksites.
In addition to the links above, the information can be found at www.OSHA.gov. Enter “heat related illness” in the search box.
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