I usually try to get to this subject at the very start of summer and at this point, I feel I’m a couple of weeks late. But since it is the 4th of July, I’m assuming most of you have the day off and will be enjoying cold beverages and barbeque and this could be an opportune time to issue my yearly warning. Please be aware of the dangers of the summer heat.
It typically takes days to even a few weeks to acclimate to the heat and humidity. So while we’re getting used to the hot temperatures, OSHA is again trotting out its campaign to keep workers safe in the heat. The Heat Illness Prevention campaign started in 2011 and the basic message has remained the same. It consists of three words: water, rest, and shade.
I don’t want to put a downer on all your Independence Day celebrations, but according to OSHA, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extremely hot and humid conditions. And here’s an eye-opener: more than 40% of heat-related worker deaths happen in the construction industry.
For all you supervisors and bosses on the job site, remember that it’s OSHA law that employers are responsible for providing a workplace that is free of known safety hazards, and this includes protection from extreme heat. OSHA urges employers to establish a heat illness prevention program with the following tips:
- 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.
If you don’t have one, here is OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Training Guide.
And here’s the link to their Heat Safety Tool. It’s an app that calculates the heat index for your construction site and then it can tell you what the risk level is for outdoor workers. It will also give you reminders on protective measures such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks, and having an emergency plan. It offers training in recognizing and monitoring the signs of heat illness.
Now please take a few minutes to watch OSHA’s heat safety video. It has a few details that I have yet to mention.