During summer time, it is usual for every person working outdoors to be concerned about hot working conditions that might lead to heat stress related illnesses/injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. OSHA does not have a specific standard that sets requirements for employers to comply with in order to prevent/recognize/treat heat related hazards. However under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act), employers must provide a working environment “…free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”, including heat-related hazards. Therefore OSHA provides a series of guidelines, manuals and as well a Heat Illness Prevention campaign, that gives employers and employees a great opportunity to be educated on the hazards of working in hot environments.
Let’s briefly discuss the causes that can lead to a heat stress, different symptoms of heat illnesses and how to prevent heat stress:
Most of the following causes are related to outdoor working environments but indoor activities (e.g. iron and steel foundries, glass products facilities, electrical utilities/boiler rooms, bakeries, commercial kitchens, laundries, etc…) can also have a potential for causing heat-related illness.
(from most severe to less severe)
OSHA briefly and effectively summarizes what actions should be taken in order to prevent heat illnesses, in three words, that actually represents OSHA Heat Illness Prevention campaign: water, rest, shade. That gives a general but powerful idea of what employers and employees must take into account when they are engaged in working in hot (outdoor as well as indoor) environments.
To learn more about the heat illness prevention, training or any other requirements set by the OSHA for heat stress for Construction (29 CFR 1926) or General Industry (29 CFR 1910) please contact Walden Environmental Engineering for a free consultation to discuss any issue about OSHA heat stress related compliance or about any of the other EHS engineering services we provide.