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Working in the Heat

Workers suffering in the heat

It’s officially summer, and businesses that have employees working outside should be aware of the risks of heat-related illness.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 700 people die each year from excessive heat, and more than 67,000 people visit an emergency room due to heat-related illness.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) states that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities recognized as hazardous or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, including heat-related hazards.

Create a Plan to Protect Workers
To help employers understand their responsibilities, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published recommended standards for gauging occupational heat stress and preventing heat-related illnesses. An employer’s heat-related hazard plan should include:

  • Provisions for proper oversight and daily supervision, including assigned roles and a buddy system.
  • Worker training and acclimation to working in hot conditions.
  • First aid administration.
  • Engineering controls and work practices to measure heat levels and potential threats to workers’ safety.

Know the Warning Signs of Heat Stroke and Illness
According to the CDC, symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status or slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature

If you observe that a worker has symptoms of heat stroke, take the following steps:

  • Call 911 immediately for emergency medical care.
  • Stay with the worker until emergency medical services arrive.
  • Move the worker to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
  • Place cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits and groin, or soak the clothing with cool water.
  • Circulate the air around the worker to speed cooling.

If you need assistance incorporating heat-related hazard planning into your employee handbook, please give us a call.

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