OSHA Urges Employers to Combat Heat-related Illnesses

Published July 13, 2016

​Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels kicked off the agency’s 2016 heat illness prevention campaign during a recent teleconference with stakeholders, reporters, and others. The campaign, which has been a staple for OSHA for several years, raises awareness about the hazards of working in the heat and educates workers and employers about ways to prevent heat-related illness and death of workers exposed to hot and humid conditions. According to the agency, workers in construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; agriculture; building and grounds maintenance; landscaping services; and support activities for oil and gas operations are among those most affected by heat-related illnesses. Those who have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, such as new workers, temporary workers, and employees returning to work after taking time off, may be at greater risk. In 2015, OSHA received reports of more than 200 workers hospitalized with heat illness, which Michaels described as an “undercount of the actual number.”

“We also know that in this current heat wave, workers are concerned about their safety,” Michaels said. “In fact, we've received a record number of emails, comments and questions regarding heat and worker rights in recent weeks.”

Michaels indicated that this year OSHA is already investigating several worker fatalities that appear to be related to heat. He noted that OSHA’s regional offices are already conducting outreach and education on the dangers of heat, and urged the agency’s partners to use the resources on the heat illness prevention campaign webpage to do the same.

The official social media hashtag for the campaign is #WaterRestShade. A new social media toolkit (PDF) includes sample tweets and Facebook posts to help spread the word via social and professional networks. Other new resources include an information sheet describing OSHA’s campaign and a short video that discusses acclimatization, common symptoms of heat illness, and best practices to prevent it.

Additional resources related to OSHA’s heat outreach campaign are available in English and Spanish on the agency’s website. These resources include educational resources, such as fact sheets, posters, and the “OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Training Guide”; a guide for employers on using the heat index; and training materials, including the “OSHA Heat Prevention Lesson Plan.”

Related: The April 2016 Synergist featured an article on a new NIOSH document that offers updated guidance on protecting workers in hot environments. Read “Heat Hazards” online.