As the weather starts to heat up across the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a campaign to help workers prevent heat-related illnesses when working outdoors.
These illnesses continue to be an issue every summer—when the heat and humidity reaches unsafe levels, the body is not able to adequately cool itself by sweating. In 2014, OSHA reported 2,630 incidents of workers suffering from heat-related illness, along with 18 deaths from heat stroke or other on-the-job causes.
As part of its campaign, OSHA is stressing three simple words: water, rest and shade. If workers follow the guidelines associated with these words, the chance of heat-related illness is greatly reduced.
These guidelines are:
- 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.
There are other factors beyond temperature that can make outdoor work even more dangerous. When working in complete sunlight, the heat index value can increase by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If these conditions exist, further precautions must be taken.
Most work-related heat deaths occur in the first few days of working in the heat. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, heavy sweating and a body temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
OSHA has a guide for employers on how to train their employees on heat safety. It suggests three training sessions: the first on the health effects of heat, the second on how to respond on symptoms and the third on preventing heat exhaustion. It also provides resources such as a daily safety checklist as well as fact sheets and posters. The guide is available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/osha_heattraining_guide_0411.pdf.