Thousands of workers experience illness and even death from heat exposure every year. However, heat illnesses and deaths are preventable! Employers are responsible for making sure their employees have a save workplace and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a campaign to generate awareness and prevent heat illness in outdoor workers.
Heat illness occurs when the body’s cooling mechanism (sweating) just isn’t enough during hot weather, especially with high humidity. In this case, body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken to cool the body. Heat illness can range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, which requires immediate medical attention and can result in death.
Employers should have a complete heat illness prevention program in place to protect workers, which includes providing workers with water, rest, and shade. New workers, temporary workers, and those returning to work after a week or more are most susceptible to heat illness and should be gradually acclimated to their outside work environment. In times of a heat wave, all workers are at risk.
The following steps should be taken 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.
Knowing the heat index in your work area is very important for preventing overexposure, but this information is not always easy to determine. As part of OSHA’s nationwide Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, they recently released a Heat Safety Tool application for Android and iPhone devices, which is available in both English and Spanish versions. The Heat Safety Tool uses the user’s location to determine the temperature, humidity, and heat index then gives precautions to take based on the user’s current risk level. The app also puts a variety of heat safety resource material at the fingertips of users in order to educate and generate awareness about the topic.
Click here for more information about OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign or to download the Heat Safety Tool app.