Heat Wave: Keeping Workers Safe In Hot Weather
Fast-thinking employees performing cleanup and recovery work in New Orleans helped save a co-worker's life recently by using an OSHA QuickCard to identify signs of heat stroke and then provide first aid until an ambulance arrived a few minutes later. Earlier that day, the small group of tower workers and their supervisor held a 15 minute safety meeting to discuss the recognition, treatment and dangers of heat related illnesses.
After being treated for heat stroke, the worker was released from an area hospital and returned to work the next day. An attending physician said that if treatment had been delayed another 15 minutes, he might have died.
While the outcome of this story is not likely to lead the nightly news or appear on the local paper's front page, it does represent a real scenario that plays itself out many times throughout the hot summer months. However, because of foresight, fast thinking, and the right information, tragedy can be averted.
"The combination of heat, humidity, and physical labor can be dangerous for those working outdoors," said OSHA Administrator Ed Foulke. "To help workers and employers become more aware of these hazards and how they can protect themselves, we are offering tips to keep them safe and healthy throughout the summer months."
The two most serious forms of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can make a difference in preventing a fatality.
Working Outdoors is an OSHA fact sheet that offers advice on ways to protect against exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), precautions to take if working in extreme heat, and how to protect against Lyme Disease and the West Nile Virus. The fact sheet also offers information links for teenagers working at summer jobs.
OSHA's Heat Stress Card lists tips and precautions to prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment.
Protecting Yourself Against Harmful Sunlight is a pocket card that explains how to perform self-examinations to detect early stages of skin cancer. The card, available in English and Spanish, also describes common physical features of skin cancer that can be caused by exposure to the sun.
Download or order products
These publications and others related to outdoor job hazards can be downloaded from OSHA's web site on the publications page or can be ordered by calling OSHA's publications office at (202) 693-1888. More information about heat and sun hazards can be found on OSHA's website, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
OSHA and the Workplace
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.