In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness, and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to OSHA.
Under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for protecting workers from hazards on the job, including extreme heat. To prevent heat-related illness and fatalities, OSHA offers these suggestions:
* Prepare a heat acclimatization plan and medical monitoring program. If someone has not worked in hot weather for at least a week, his or her body needs time to adjust.
* Encourage workers to drink about one cup of water every 15-20 minutes, even if they say they’re not thirsty. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, they should drink sports beverages containing electrolytes.
* Provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas for cooling down, and encourage workers to use them.
* Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing, such as hats, light-colored clothing, water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, ice-packet vests, wetted over garments, and heat-reflective aprons or suits.
* Be familiar with heat illness signs and symptoms, and make sure employees are, too. Some heat exhaustion signs are dizziness, headache, cramps, sweaty skin, nausea and vomiting, weakness, and a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke symptoms include: red, hot, dry skin; convulsions; fainting; and confusion. In general, any time a worker has fainted or demonstrates confusion, this represents an emergency situation.
* Tell workers to notify a supervisor or to call 911 if they or their co-workers show signs of heat illness. Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for early signs and symptoms of heat intolerance. Have someone stay with a worker who is suffering from the heat until help arrives.
* Encourage supervisors and workers to download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool on their iPhone or Android device. [https://www.osha.gov
Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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