Page 16 - OHS, June 2022
P. 16

Keeping Workers Safe from Heat-Related
Illnesses & Injuries in Jobs with High Sun Exposure
Employers can no longer afford to not consider high heat hazards.
he requirements and standards for helping to keep workers safe in hot environments are, well, heating up. This includes team members who
must work outside in the sun. Of course, the health and safety of workers has been a chief concern for businesses for quite some time. Even so, OSHA has started ramping up efforts to increase legislation and standards to ensure worker safety in hot environments by issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM).1 It’s doing this in concert with the current administration’s interagency efforts.
A September 20, 2021, statement on titled “FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Mobilizes to Protect Workers and Communities from Extreme Heat,” confirmed this: “New initiatives at OSHA and across agencies will enhance workplace safety, build local resilience, and address disproportionate heat impacts.”2
“The United States experienced a dangerously hot summer [in 2021], breaking records last set during the Dust Bowl. The climate crisis is making heat waves more intense and frequent— endangering workers and communities. During the June 2021 heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, states reported hundreds of excess deaths and thousands of emergency room visits for heat-related illness,” an excerpt from the factsheet explained. “Recognizing the seriousness of this threat, the Biden Administration is taking immediate action on heat hazards to protect workers and communities as part of a broader commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are announcing a set of actions that will reduce heat-related illness, protect public health, and support the economy.”
Although the interagency taskforce will look at initiatives for both workplace and community extreme heat-related situations and scenarios, here are some of the plans that relate directly to the development of OSHA workplace heat standards and increasing enforcement.
■ Launching a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard
■ Implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards
■ Developing a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections
■ Forming a heat work group to engage stakeholders and inform ongoing efforts
Extreme heat is serious business and it can have dangerous consequences, particularly in the workplace during outdoor jobs such as construction, working at height, and oil and gas. In fact, in its ANPRM, OSHA cites that there have been more than 31,000 estimated work- related heat injuries involving days away from work between 2011 and 2019.3
The Factors Contributing to
Outdoor Heat-Related Illnesses There are a few of the occupational factors that contribute to heat illnesses workers
may experience. These include:
Trouble cooling down. High
temperatures combined with high humidity don’t allow the body to get rid of built-up internal temperatures.
Low fluid consumption. However, consuming the wrong fluids can also lead to heat illness. For example, drinks containing alcohol or caffeine are actually diuretic, draining the fluids instead of replenishing them.
No access to shade. Working directly in the sun with no available shade. Tents can help alleviate this problem.
Decreased air circulation. Working in areas with limited air circulation allows heat to build up. If there isn’t a chance for wind or a breeze, consider installing fans.
Maximum effort. Hard physical exertion under direct sun contributes to exhaustion and potential heat illnesses.
Too many layers. Unfortunately, the protective clothing and equipment that may be necessary in certain circumstances can contribute to heat stress. More frequent breaks where workers can doff these items may be needed. Consider PPE that’s designed specifically for sun exposure.
However, understanding the factors
14 Occupational Health & Safety | JUNE 2022

   14   15   16   17   18