Hot weather is here and it’s no secret that extreme heat can be dangerous. In 2018, there were 108 heat-related fatalities and thousands of workers affected by excess heat exposure reported nationwide, making extreme heat the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. Nonetheless, under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, which include heat-related hazards. Worksite heat –related illnesses and deaths can be prevented by taking simple precautions.
Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include engineering controls, such as air conditioning and ventilation that make the work environment cooler, work practices such as work/rest cycles, drinking water often, and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to be familiar with and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do as acting quickly can save lives.
Visit www.osha.gov for worker fact sheets, worksite posters, and other resources on preventing heat-related illness, in both English and Spanish. For more information or to request a free on site hazard assessment from the USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program, please visit us at www.usfsafetyflorida.com or call us toll-free (866) 273-1105.