Record setting heat across most of the nation this summer affects workers who don’t have the advantage of escaping to air-conditioned offices. High humidity in our region adds to the problem, creating a “heat index” that adds dangerous conditions to the workplace when sweat does not readily evaporate and cool the skin.
Construction workers, roofers, carpenters, farm workers and foundry workers, among others, all are at risk under these high heat conditions. This past week OSHA is investigating the death of an iron foundry worker which the coroner reported was related to extreme heat. Temperatures in the area he was working could reportedly reach up to 160 degrees.
While OSHA does not have specific standards that cover working in hot, humid environments, it does under the OSH Act, require a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace – which includes heat-related dangers. Most of those dangers result when workers work in direct sunlight, perform prolonged or strenuous work or wear heavy protective clothing or impermeable suits.
Some of the OSHA suggestions for employers to protect workers include the following:
1. Like with other dangerous conditions, make sure workers understand the risks and have a work site plan to prevent injuries. Have medical services available to respond if an incident should occur.
2. Provide plenty of water and remind workers to drink water frequently – every 15 minutes.
3. Provide rest breaks and shaded or cooled rest areas near the site.
4. Allow workers to acclimate to the heat, gradually increasing workload over a period of time.
5. Use the cooler times of the day to create work shifts, scheduling heavy tasks early in the day or switching to night shifts during extremely hot summer months.
Workers injured or killed due to heat related work conditions may have a claim for workers compensation or civil liability. Contact us for a free evaluation of your case.