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Heat Illness Prevention in the Workplace

Heat illness is preventable, even though Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat in their workplaces. Every year, thousands become sick from occupational heat exposure. Some cases are fatal. Most outdoor fatalities, 50% to 70%, occur in the first few days of working in hot environments. This is because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. Lack of acclimatization is a major risk factor for fatal outcomes. However, illness from exposure to heat is preventable.

Since 2011, a focus on keeping workers safe while working in the heat has made great progress. However, there is still significant work to be done. OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign comes down to three keywords: Water. Rest. Shade.

New employees will need time to build a tolerance to the heat. Especially during their first few days in warm or hot environments. Workers who are new to working in warm environments are at increased risk of heat-related illness. Especially during a worker’s first few days, absolutely all symptoms should be taken seriously.

Workers who develop symptoms should be allowed to stop working. They should receive an evaluation for possible heat-related illnesses. Employers should encourage new workers to consume adequate fluids (water and sports drinks), work shorter shifts, take frequent breaks, and quickly identify any heat illness symptoms

Heat-Related Dangers

Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There is a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Employers should recognize that not all workers tolerate heat the same way. Therefore, workplace controls should focus on making jobs safe for all employees. Workers should receive training about personal factors that can make them more susceptible to heat-related illness. When in doubt, workers should talk to their healthcare provider about whether they can work safely in the heat.

Responsibility to Protect Workers

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program including these 6 steps to prevent heat illness.

  1. Train workers in prevention
  2. Provide workers with water, rest, and shade
  3. Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads
  4. Take more frequent breaks as they build a tolerance for working in the heat
  5. Plan for emergencies
  6. Monitor workers for signs of illness

We offer safety training that includes keeping workers safe in heat-exposed jobs. This covers what workers need to know – including factors for heat illness. As well as, adapting to working in indoor and outdoor heat and protecting workers. Furthermore, it includes recognizing symptoms and first aid training. Our heat illness training materials meet OSHA workplace standards.

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