OSHA Urges Employers to Protect Workers During Heatwave

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The Heat is On – the midwest is bracing for a heatwave which may cause potentially dangerous work conditions, especially for those working outside and in hot, interior spaces.

OSHA’s message is simple: Water. Rest. Shade.

Each year, thousands of workers suffer the effects of heat exposure and, in some cases, die as a result. In Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska alone, there were 13 heat-related hospitalizations and seven deaths associated with heat exposure between Oct. 1, 2014, and April 28, 2017.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA helps ensure these conditions by setting standards and providing training, education, and assistance.

There are three kinds of major heat-related disorders—heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. You need to know how to recognize each one and what first aid treatment is necessary.

The combination of heat and humidity can be a serious health threat during the summer months. If you work outside (for example, at a beach resort, on a farm, at a construction site) or in a kitchen, laundry, or bakery you may be at increased risk for heat-related illness. So, take precautions.

Here’s how:

  • Drink small amounts of water frequently;
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing—cotton is good;
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool shade;
  • Eat smaller meals before work activity;
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar;
  • Work in the shade;
  • Find out from your health care provider if your medications and heat don’t mix; and
  • Know that equipment such as respirators or work suits can increase heat stress.