With the vast majority of the country in line for high temperatures, employers needs to be aware of their employee’s exposure to heat and the ultimate risks this can lead to at work. Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have any specific heat standards, the agency is now ready to cite employers for the amount of heat exposure their employees undergo, under Section 5(A)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), typically referred to as the General Duty Clause.
Unfortunately, a lot of citations occur after workers have already suffered fatal or life-threatening exposure to heat dangers. Samples of these kind of instances include the following :
- In a case, an employee of a planing mill was noticed by a group of people, because of his unusual movement. He lost consciousness and an emergency assistance was summoned. Resuscitative actions were taken, and the worker was moved to a medical center, where he later passed away.
- Another circumstance involved chicken screama masonry laborer working on a construction job site when the heat exceeded 91ºF without having protective measures being taken by the employer.
- A worker was working in a sawmill, pulling cut lumber from a green chain and became dizzy while starting to stagger. His supervisor told him to take a break, however upon coming back to work, the worker started to stagger again and then fainted. He was rushed to the medical center, where he arrived unconscious with a temperature of 108ºF. Upon getting transferred to a major hospital, he died without regaining consciousness.
- In one more case, a 31-year-old construction employee who was leveling gravel and setting up forms for a swimming pool in extreme heat, had to be air-lifted to a trauma center. He was then pronounced dead.
In July 2013, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, David Michaels, organized a press conference where he requested assistance with publicizing his agency’s heat stress awareness campaign. Michaels pointed out 5 key pieces of advice in dealing with this occupational hazard:
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water every 15 minutes whether or not you are thirsty.
- Take a break in the shade to cool all the way down.
- Wear a hat as well as light-colored clothing.
- Understand the signs of heat stress as well as what to do in the case of an emergency.
- Keep your eyes on your co-workers.