Summer is right around the corner and OSHA wants employers to know that workers need protection from heat-related illnesses.
Water, rest and shade “can be the difference between ending the workday safely or suffering serious injuries or worse,” according to OSHA.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 344 work-related deaths from 2011 to 2019 were due to environmental heat exposure, but experts believe the actual number of heat-related fatalities could be much higher due to underreporting and misreporting other causes, such as heart attacks.
OSHA began a heat-related national emphasis program in April 2022 to combat this hazard and protect workers from heat illness and related injuries.
Resources for calculating, training on heat hazards
The agency emphasizes that water, rest and shade are of the utmost importance, and employers should:
- encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes
- encourage workers to take frequent rest breaks in the shade to cool down
- have an emergency plan ready to respond when a worker show signs of heat illness
- train workers on the hazards of heat exposure and how to prevent illness, and
- allow workers to build a tolerance for working in heat.
OSHA, in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, created a free Heat Safety Tool that’s available in English and Spanish. This tool is a downloadable app that calculates a worksite’s heat index and displays associated risk levels.
The agency’s heat exposure page explains the symptoms of heat illness and provides first aid measures to use while waiting for help, engineering controls and work practices to reduce exposure, and training.