Many areas of the country have already experienced temperatures of 90 degrees or more, and it’s not even June. OSHA reminds employers that excessive exposure to heat can cause illness or in worse case scenarios, can lead to death.
OSHA’s latest campaign to protect workers from the overwhelming effects of excessive exposure to heat is “Water, Rest, Shade.” The campaign emphasizes the fact that heat illnesses and deaths are preventable and urges employers to establish a heat illness prevention program.
As an employer, the six steps to establishing a successful heat illness prevention program include:
1. Provide workers with ample amounts of water, rest, and shade.
• 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.
2. Gradually increasing workloads and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or those who have been away for a week or more (acclimatization).
• “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.
3. Modify work schedules as necessary.
• If workers are new to working in the heat or returning from more than a week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave, implement a work schedule to allow them to get used to the heat gradually.
4. Plan for emergencies.
5. Train workers about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them.
6. Monitor workers for signs of illness (headache, dizziness, thirst, nausea, weakness, wet skin, confusion, not sweating, collapse).
Remember that all workers that are exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, particularly those doing heavy lifting or wearing bulky protective clothing or equipment. The Industries most affected by heat-related illness are: construction; trade, transportation and utilities; agriculture; building, grounds maintenance; landscaping services; and support activities for oil and gas operations.