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. 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job in 2014. Most heat-related illnesses and deaths are totally preventable.
Any worker exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk of 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 workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off.
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards, including protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program, including:
- Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
- Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
- Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
- Monitor workers for signs of illness.
To prevent heat-related illness and fatalities workers should:
- Drink water every 15 minutes
- Rest in the shade to cool down
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers
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