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OSHA Launches Program to Prevent Heat Illness Among Outdoor Workers

heat illnessHeat illness can be deadly. Each year, tens of thousands of workers fall ill or die from heat exposure, but these incidents are entirely preventable.

OSHA’s new website on heat illness is part of a national outreach campaign to increase awareness among workers and employers about the risks of outdoor labor in hot weather. The worker education page offers important information on how to prevent different heat illnesses. I also includes training tools and posters for employers to publicize at their place of work. Many of these are addressed to vulnerable workers with limited English proficiency. OSHA will continue to add information and tools to this page throughout the summer.

OSHA is also partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather service alerts. NOAA’s Heat Watch page now includes worker safety precautions when extreme heat alerts are issued.

We invite you to join in this effort by helping to reach workers and employers in your community with the resources you will find on this site.

 

Who suffers from heat-related workplace illness?

Employees who work in hot or humid conditions run this risk of heat stroke or heat illness, especially when their jobs involve heavy labor or protective clothing and equipment that minimizes ventilation. Some workers can be at greater risk simply because they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.

 

What is heat illness?

The human body generally cools itself by sweating. During hot spells, especially when high humidity is present, sweating alone can be inadequate. A worker’s temperature can elevate to dangerous levels if they fail to take proper measures. Heat illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion — and most seriously — heat stroke. This last condition can lead to death, and calls for immediate medical attention.

 

How can heat illness be prevented?

Three simple factors can drastically reduce heat stress and heat illness: water, rest, shade.

Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water at regular intervals has saved millions of workers from heat illness. Likewise, taking breaks and limiting time in direct sun can reduce risk.

Employers are advised to include these prevention steps in worksite routines. When doing a job in hot conditions, gradually build up to heavy work; this helps individuals build tolerance to the heat and become acclimated. Increase workloads slowly and offer more frequent breaks during the initial week of work. Also, it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of heat illness. Plan for an emergency and know what to do — acting quickly can save lives!

If you have experience a work injury or occupational illness, an Emery Reddy workers compensation lawyer can help you complete the L&I claim process and get you the maximum benefits you deserve.  Many workers also turn to us for experienced legal representation after a denied L&I claim or after the Department of Labor and Industries orders them to complete an Independent Medical Examination.  We also have years of experience protecting the rights of workers who are injured by a third party. Call an L&I Attorney today for a free and confidential consultation.

Emery Reddy