OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, launched in 2011, educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances, millions of workers and employers have learned how to protect workers from heat.
OSHA standards require employers with workers exposed to high temperatures to establish a heat illness prevention program that incorporates water, rest and shade as key elements of worker protection. Every year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. More than 40% of heat-related worker deaths occur on construction jobsites, but workers in every industry are susceptible while working in high temperatures. Most heat-related illnesses and deaths are totally preventable.
During hot weather, especially with high humidity, body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke if workers don’t drink enough water and rest in the shade. Any worker exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk for heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, including new and temporary workers and those returning to work after a week or more off.
Essential elements of an effective heat illness prevention program include:
- Providing workers with water, rest and shade
- Allowing new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize and build a tolerance for working in the heat
- Planning for emergencies and training workers on prevention
- Monitoring workers for signs of illness.
OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure webpage explains what employers can do to keep workers safe and what workers need to know – including factors for heat illness, adapting to working in indoor and outdoor heat, recognizing symptoms and first aid training. The page also offers resources for specific industries, an overview of OSHA’s heat-related standards and links to heat safety apps for both iPhones and Android phones. Employers are urged to take advantage of OSHA resources to help protect their workers from the potentially devastating effects of heat-related illness.