As we enter the Summer months, it’s imperative that outdoor workers are protected from excessive heat and humidity.
Every year, dozens of people die and thousands more become sick while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There is a range of heat illnesses, and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.
In 2011, OSHA launched its Heat Illness Prevention campaign, and July 31 is Heatstroke Awareness Day.
OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances, millions have learned how to protect workers from heat. OSHA’s message comes down to three words: Water. Rest. Shade.
Employer Responsibility to Protect Workers
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program that can include:
- Providing workers with water, rest and shade.
- Allowing new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
- Planning for emergencies and training workers on prevention.
- Monitoring workers for signs of illness.
OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Heat page explains what employers can do to keep workers safe and what workers need to know - including factors for heat illness, adapting to working in indoor and outdoor heat, protecting workers, recognizing symptoms and first aid training. T
Occupational heat exposure is a combination of many factors. Contributors include:
- Physical activity
- Air temperature
- Heat sources (e.g., ovens or furnaces, heat-absorbing roofs, and road surfaces)
- Air movement
- Clothing that hampers the body’s ability to lose excess heat, such as protective gear
- Individual/personal risk factors, (e.g., pre-existing health conditions and lifestyle)
The OSHA 30 Hour Construction Training Course is designed to give foremen, supervisors, superintendents, competent persons, safety staff, safety committee members, and others with responsibility for workplace safety, knowledge about the basic OSHA health and safety regulations affecting construction workplaces. One of the course’s modules covers working outside in heat and humidity. To learn more about OSHA Health and Safety courses, click here.