The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a Heat Illness Prevention campaign in 2011 to educate employers and employees on the dangers of working in the heat. Under OSHA law, employers are required to provide workers with water, rest and shade in addition to training employees on prevention.
OSHA has developed Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat Fact Sheet as a resource for employers and employees looking for more information on how to stay prepared for the hot summer weather.
The fact sheet breaks down the various types of heat illness such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Factors such as high temperatures, high humidity, low fluid consumption and physical exertion all contribute to heat illness.
The fact sheet also dispels myths about working in the heat. For example, certain beverages such as caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration, which is why drinking water is advised. According to the fact sheet, workers are encouraged to drink a liter of water over one hour - which is about one cup every 15 minutes. The fact sheet also provides advice to limit heat illness, such as scheduling physically demanding tasks during cooler times of the day or allowing new workers to get used to the working conditions before diving into 100 percent of the workload.
Preventing heat illness requires small steps from employers that can make a big difference. OSHA lists several program elements that can be incorporated to help:
- The "water, rest, shade" message
- Allowing workers to acclimatize to conditions
- Modifying work schedules
- Monitoring for signs and symptoms
- Designating a person to oversee a Heat Illness Prevention Program
- Emergency planning and response