A Note from the Director

| OSHA, USF Safety Florida

Dear Reader,

Thousands of indoor and outdoor workers are exposed to heat risk each year and even killed due to heat overexposure. According to a recent study conducted by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, heat-induced illnesses and injuries are taking more lives than any natural disaster and costing businesses across the nation an average of $100 billion annually from declines in labor productivity. Despite these consequences, heat-related incidents consistently remain under-reported, and workers remain at risk.

In response to the high incidence of heat-related illnesses and injuries, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed and implemented a National Emphasis Program with a new enforcement initiative. Additionally, the agency has formed the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to increase awareness of the harmful effects of heat stress and share best practices to protect workers. This initiative is intended to ensure employees in high-hazard industries are protected from both indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards,  adds an enforcement component to target specific high-hazard industries in workplaces where this hazard is prevalent, and focuses on vulnerable workers in outdoor and indoor environments.  The ultimate goal is to reduce or eliminate worker exposures to heat hazards and target industries and worksites where employees are not provided with cool water, rest, cool shaded areas, training, and acclimatization using a proactive vs. reactive approach with enforcement, outreach to employers, and compliance assistance.

As part of the program, OSHA can target and proactively initiate on-site inspections of indoor and outdoor worksites in high-risk industries conceivably when the National Weather Service has issued a local heat warning or advisory or the heat index reaches 80 degrees or higher. Regardless of whether the NEP targets the industry, during heat-related inspections, employers should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a written program?
  • How does the employer monitor ambient temperature(s) and levels of work exertion at the worksite?
  • Is there access to water, rest, shade, and breaks?
  • Does the employer provide time for acclimatization of new and returning workers?
  • Is a “buddy” system in place on hot days?
  • Are administrative controls used (earlier start times and employee/job rotation) to limit heat overexposure?
  • Does the employer provide training on heat illness signs, how to report signs and symptoms, first aid, how to contact emergency personnel, prevention, and the importance of hydration?

As an employer, it is your obligation to identify, abate and/or eliminate the occupational hazard exposure at your worksite. It is strongly recommended that employers take a proactive approach toward heat illness and injury prevention. Heat-related incidents can dramatically interrupt business operations and present significant financial and reputational repercussions. The USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program has provided free, confidential compliance assistance to thousands of Florida’s small employers for over 20 years and can assist in developing strategic approaches to address heat-related illnesses and injuries in the workplace. Our consultants hold more than 150 years of combined occupational health and safety leadership experience from various industries such as private manufacturing, construction, mining, and government. To request a confidential, no-cost consultation, please visit https://www.tfaforms.com/4696809 or call toll-free (866) 273 1105.

Stay Safe,

Dr. Brian L. Warrick, PhD, CSP, CIH
Program Director
USF SafetyFlorida