Each year dozens of workers die or become ill in the United States after working in remarkably high temperatures and not following proper heat safety guidelines. Prepare yourself and employees for hot days on the job by ensuring that every employee knows about the risks of working in the heat.
Excessive exposure to heat can cause a number of heat-related illnesses, ranging from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can lead to death so it is imperative that employees understand the signs and symptoms of all heat-related illnesses. OSHA has published Occupational Heat Exposure Prevention Controls to help employers and employees reduce and prevent heat-related illnesses.
The chart below from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website shows the difference between the heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how you should handle each situation. In addition, to properly track the heat index on your job sites check out the OSHA/NIOSH Heat Index app for iPhone and Android.
Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries due to sweaty hands, fogged safety glasses, dizziness and burns from hot surfaces or steam. To ensure that employees do not reach the point of heat illness, employers should always provide:
- Air conditioning (if possible)
- Shade (if possible)
- Plenty of breaks
- Plenty of water
- Proper training
For more information on heat safety, please visit the OSHA Occupational Heat Exposure page.