The next several months can be particularly grueling for outdoor workers as the temperatures continue to heat up all around the country. Each year, thousands of workers become ill from extreme heat or humid conditions, and dozens of cases result in death. Most heat-related illnesses can be prevented by reducing the risk for developing them. Here are some best practices for keeping cool on the job while working in the heat.
Best Practices for Protecting Workers From Heat Conditions
Both indoor and outdoor workers can be exposed to unsafe heat conditions. OSHA requires employers to provide workplaces free of known safety hazards, which extends to protection from extreme heat. Indoor workplaces with hot environments may include electrical utilities, bakeries, commercial kitchens, distribution warehouses and many others. Outdoor workplaces with direct sun and hot or humid weather may include farms, oil and gas well operations, and construction or landscaping jobsites.
For Indoor Workers
Employers should implement engineering controls to make the work environment cooler and reduce exposure to heat. Use air conditioning and increase ventilation whenever possible. Redirect radiant heat by using reflective shields and insulate hot surfaces.
For Outdoor Workers
Employers should provide anyone working in the heat with water, rest and shade. Keep water near the jobsite and have workers drink small amounts frequently. Schedule heavier work during cooler times of the day and rotate job functions to help minimize heat exposure whenever possible. Allow new workers to acclimate to their environment by gradually increasing workloads and taking more frequent breaks.
Establish a Heat Prevention Program
Employers with workers exposed to high temperatures should have a heat illness prevention program and an emergency plan in place. In addition, they should:
- Train workers on heat prevention and how to respond to heat emergencies.
- Monitor workers for signs of heat illness and instruct workers to keep an eye out for each other.
- Review OSHA’s annual heat illness prevention campaign – Water. Rest. Shade. – for additional resources to protect workers on the jobsite.
To learn more about heat-related illnesses and other medical emergencies, find an Instructor in your area to get CPR, AED and First Aid certified.