The most common problem identified in heat-related deaths and illness of workers is the lack of a heat prevention and acclimatization programs by their employer, according to federal safety investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
With common summertime temperatures above 100 degrees in California and Arizona growing regions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminds employers to protect workers that may be exposed to extreme heat while working outdoors or in hot indoor environments.
Each year, thousands of workers suffer the effects of heat exposure and, in some cases, die as a result. In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job.
OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool App is available to employers, employees and the public for free download on iPhones and Android phones.
Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working in these conditions such as construction, road, and agricultural workers.
A common mistake is assuming that the worker is not at risk for heat stroke if they are still sweating. A common symptom of heat stroke is mental changes, such as confusion or irritability. Heat stroke is an emergency.
If there is any suggestion of heat stroke, call 911 and institute the other safety measures as quickly as possible. To learn more about heat stress symptoms see OSHA’s Heat Stress Quick Card http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3154.pdf
To prevent heat-related illness and fatalities:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers.
- “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.
The risk of heat stress increases for workers 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications.
Those employed in hot indoor environments such as firefighters, bakers, factory and boiler room workers, are also at risk when temperatures rise.
OSHA has provided heat safety tips for workers in a blog, Twitter posts, and an updated heat campaign webpage that now includes illustrations of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, an animated video, training resources, and links to an updated heat safety phone app.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.