As summer begins, OSHA amped up its initiatives for its heat illness awareness campaign. In his speech at a conference with meteorologists and weather forecasters, Assistant Labor Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels talked about OSHA’s heat awareness campaign, which the agency started two summers ago. The conference was intended to remind employers, workers and stakeholders on spreading the word about heat illnesses and its prevention.
Michaels said that the campaign has reached over 7.5 million workers and employers since OSHA launched it two years ago. OSHA has held thousands of events and seminars and has distributed over 500,000 reading materials in English and Spanish to support the campaign, which goes by the slogan: Water. Rest. Shade.
“If outdoor workers take these precautions, it can mean the difference between life and death,” Michaels said in his speech.
Michaels added that heat-related illnesses and deaths are common among temporary workers in the construction industry across the US. This is because seasonal workers or “temps” are not yet acclimated to their job and are intolerant to the heat. Other workers that are at high risk for heat-related illnesses include workers from the transportation, property and grounds maintenance, oil and gas, sanitation and recycling, and other related industries where heavy outdoor work is involved.
Michaels emphasized on employers’ responsibilities in ensuring a heat-safe workplace for workers. This means providing workers safety training to educate workers of symptoms of heat illness and how to respond to heat illness-related emergencies, water rations, and providing a spot for workers where they can cool down.
Michaels also shared OSHA’s five key pieces of advice:
- Rehydrating every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Taking a rest and cool down under the shade.
- Wearing a hat and light-colored clothes.
- Knowing the signs of heat illnesses and how to respond to it.
- Checking on your colleagues.
Workers should also know how to recognize symptoms of heat stress. Generally speaking, heat stress happens when the worker experiences an increase in body temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, excessive sweating, dizziness, and confusion. There are two types of heat stress to watch out for: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. What follows are ways to identify them both:
Heat Exhaustion – Symptoms of heat exhaustion include more intense headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst, and excessive sweating. It can lead quickly to a heat stroke, if not prevented.
Heat Stroke – Heat stroke can cause fainting, and worse, death if left untreated. Its symptoms include confusion, fainting, extremely high body temperature, skin dryness, excessive sweating, confusion, and skin redness.
Michaels announced that the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have partnered up with OSHA and are also promoting their own heat illness campaigns. Both the said agencies are providing worker safety information during extreme heat incidences.