Page 95 - OHS, June 2022
P. 95

From the agriculture industry to construction industry, millions of employees must brave the impact of weather while on the job.
it is anticipated they will see a drier season causing concern for severe droughts.5
While some researchers are predicting a more rain-filled summer than normal for northern states, the temperatures will continue to heat up across the country causing serious concern for employees who spend most of their time outside.6
Vulnerable Outdoor Workers
Some of the most important occupations involve outdoor work. From the agriculture industry to construction industry, millions of employees must brave the impact of weather while on the job. These outdoor workers tend to be the most vulnerable to the adverse health effects of extreme temperatures.
There is a lot that can go wrong if an employee is outside in extreme heat for too long with no breaks, hydration or ability to check in with others about their physical health. If left in extreme heat for an extended amount of time, workers can find themselves suffering from a heat-related illness, which is a condition in which the body is unable to successfully cool itself down resulting in elevated core body temperature.
Heat-related illness includes many conditions that can affect the human body, most treatable if caught in their early stages. These include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and—worst of all—heat stroke. Researchers have also linked chronic exposure to extreme heat to more dangerous health outcomes such as heart, kidney and liver damage.7
The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows between the years of 2011 and 2019, 344 workers have lost their lives due to environmental heat exposure.8 Of those deaths, 41.9 percent died from heat exposure while they were engaged in construction, repair or cleaning and 54 percent died while conducting materials handling operations. Charts from BLS show that deaths stemming from heat exposure are only on the rise and risks associated with rising temperatures must be mitigated immediately.
Is Anything Being Done?
As of right now, there are no federal regulations or standards that specifically set safe guidelines for work in extreme temperatures. OSHA typically depends on its catch-all law, or the General Duty Clause, to cite employers for failing to protect their workers from high heat environments.
Some State OSHA plans, such as California and Washington, have created standards that promulgate safe working conditions for outdoor workers, but much of the country regulated by federal OSHA have no formal rules for outdoor work.
In an effffort to address the increasing temperatures and fatalities related to extreme heat, OSHA announced on October 27, 2021 that it was publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and
By Alex Saurman
Heat affects thousands of workers every year. With rising temperatures, knowing how to keep workers safe is essential. There are many factors when it comes to weather, like humidity, wind and temperature, each affecting workers differently.
One way to keep workers safe from heat is to use a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT).1 WBGT uses “temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover” to determine heat stress. This system has been used for years by the United States military, student athletic organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine, and OSHA.
WBGT can be measured by using a special device with three thermometers. One reads the humidity, another the “solar factor” and the third the “ambient temperature.”2 OSHA recommends using this device for environmental heat.3 If you don’t have access to a device, you can use a calculator, like the one on OSHA’s website.4 However, these only provide estimates.
A reading or estimate provides insight to actions you can take to keep your workers safe. has a chart of suggested actions and impact prevention depending on the reading.5 It gives both an effect and a precautionary action to take when working or exercising outside. For example, for a WBGT of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the chart explains that “working or exercising in direct sunlight will stress your body after 45 minutes.” It recommends taking “at least 15 minutes of breaks each hour.”
The advantage of using WBGT over heat index is that it measures more environmental factors. Heat index only measures two parameters, temperature and humidity, for shady areas.
WBGT can provide employers with a more detailed understanding of the weather conditions to keep workers safe and healthy. For more information on WBGT, visit
Alex Saurman is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine.
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5. Globe%20Temperature%20(WBGT,is%20calculated%20for%20shady%20 areas. JUNE 2022 | Occupational Health & Safety 89

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