Page 8 - OHS, March 2021
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A Federal Heat Exposure Standard May Be Coming—
Here’s What Could Be Included
OSHA informs employers of the dangers of heat stress, but an official standard from the agency would help make on-the-job heat illness less common.
The risk of injuries and even death occurring due to accidents at work is widely known, but the reason for such accidents are most commonly thought to involve mishaps with equipment or exposure to hazardous chemicals. But what about the elements, more specifically the sun? Heat exposure is an often-forgotten danger for a range of workers, both inside and outside. Despite the numerous occupational hazards related to heat, there is no specific heat exposure standard from OSHA. However, there is legislation in the works that draws attention to the dangers of heat stress that could lead to a potential OSHA standard. So, what would that standard look like?
Occupational Hazards Related to Heat
First, let’s take a look at heat-related illnesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 815 workers died due to heat stress between the years of 1992 and 2017, while 70,000 others were seriously injured as a result of heat.1 Sure, we all know that heat can be uncomfortable, but what exactly makes it dangerous? There are four main conditions that arise from heat exposure:
Heat stroke is named by OSHA as the most serious heat-related health problem. It occurs when a person’s body temperature rises to a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or greater and the body is unable to regulate that temperature.
Heat exhaustion is the second most serious. This condition occurs when the body temperature reaches more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat cramps are a less severe result of heat exposure. They are muscle pains that are caused by the loss of fluids due to sweating. Heat rashes are another less severe condition that is caused by sweating. However, they are the most common to occur in hot
environments. They appear as red blisters or pimples.
The four primary types of heat illness that workers can experience can be further categorized into two types: exertional, which is the result of getting overheated while doing a job of high physical demand, and environmental, which is the direct impact
of the hot conditions.
Factors that put workers at risk of developing any of these
four conditions include strenuous physical activity in warm
8 Occupational Health & Safety | MARCH 2021
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