BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The hot temperatures during the summer months have always been worrisome for those who work outdoors. With most of the United States experiencing a ‘heat dome’, concerns regarding their safety are even more important, and proper care when working in the heat can be life-saving.
From 2011 to 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 344 worker-related deaths in the U.S as a result of overexposure to environmental heat — and experts believe the number may be even higher due to misreporting the cause of death.
In order to address and combat this problem, the BLS’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began a National Emphasis Program in April to protect laborers from heat-related injuries and illnesses.
“Whether in a farm field or a manufacturing plant, workers must be protected from the dangers of heat illness in hot environments,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous in Denver in a press release. “In the past several years, OSHA’s heat safety campaign has been intently focused on raising awareness of the related dangers, our recent National Emphasis Program is reaching out to unions, employers in targeted industries, and other organizations to protect workers most often exposed to heat illness and injuries.”
The key message of the new emphasis on reducing heat illness is simple: reduce the chance of it occurring by staying hydrated, taking breaks, and educating workers on both the signs and hazards of heat sickness. Here are some of the pieces of advice they have to give to both employers and employees to better handle the summer heat.
- Encourage workers to rest in the shade when feeling overheated to cool down.
- Encourage frequent drinking of water (approximately every 15 minutes).
- Allow workers to build a tolerance for working in the heat.
- Train workers and employers on the hazards of heat exposure and how to prevent illness.
- Have an emergency plan ready in case an employee displays signs of heat illness.
Another way employers can help prepare for and avoid the worst effects of heat is by using the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool — a new app that can calculate a worksite’s heat index and displays associated risk levels as well as possible solutions.
At the end of the day, the group’s advice on preventing heat illness boils down to three major words: Water, Rest, and Shade.