OSHA’s heat illness prevention efforts focus mostly on outdoor workers. But a Kansas City TV station reports hot indoor conditions could get the agency’s attention, too.
Go to OSHA’s heat illness prevention webpage and you’ll see photos of workers engaged in farming and construction. Even the agency’s prevention slogan, “Water, Rest Shade,” points more to outdoor workers: An indoor worker usually doesn’t need to find “shade.”
And the page itself is titled, “OSHA’s campaign to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers.”
But at this time of year, many employees know that hot working conditions aren’t exclusively outdoors.
Take this example from North Kansas City, MO. KCTV5 reports that OSHA investigated the lack of air conditioning during a heat wave at a fast food restaurant.
A concerned customer found sweltering employees in a Wendy’s kitchen. The A/C wasn’t working. Workers said it reached 122° in the kitchen.
There was a standing fan – which was reportedly brought in by an employee.
The customer says she was told by workers that they were getting sick and passing out, so she called OSHA.
OSHA sent an inspector. No word yet on how the inspection went down.
A spokesperson for the Wendy’s franchise said, “As soon as we knew the air conditioning broke, we worked to fix it. The air conditioning was out for two hours. No employees were forced to work.”
However, the customer tells another story. When she asked workers why they were still in the stifling kitchen, they reportedly told her if they didn’t work they’d get fired. There are also reports the A/C problem may have existed for weeks.
The Wendy’s story brought back my own high school memories of working in a fast food restaurant.
We never had a complete breakdown of the A/C. But there were summer days when it had trouble keeping up, particularly near the fryers and where the burgers were cooked.
Visits from an HVAC company occurred. While other areas of the restaurant remained cool, certain areas in the kitchen were plenty warm.
Thinking back, I realized that our shift managers employed something recommended by OSHA when engineering solutions (HVAC repair) don’t do the trick: administrative controls.
On those days, our managers didn’t leave us in front of the fryers for too long. They rotated us to cooler areas of the restaurant, such as working the front counter.
And as far as “Water, Rest, Shade” goes, they made sure we had cups of ice water nearby and allowed us to go into the dining area where it was cooler to take more frequent breaks.
But the KC Wendy’s workers didn’t have that option with the complete failure of the restaurant’s A/C.
The concerned customer told the TV station she thought the restaurant should have been shut down until the A/C was fixed. Do you agree? Let us know in the comments.