Annual summer campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses launched by US Labor Department

Annual summer campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses launched by US Labor Department

By Courtesy of Diana Petterson, Office of Public Affairs

 

 

 

“Water. Rest. Shade.” and acclimatization arecritical in preventing heat illness and fatalitiesCourtesyof Diana Petterson, Office of Public Affairs WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administrationhas announced the launch of its annual Campaignto Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. For the fourth consecutiveyear, OSHA’s campaign aims to raise awareness and educate workers and employersabout the dangers of working in hot weather and provide resources and guidanceto address these hazards. Workers at particular risk are those in outdoor industries,such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and transportation. “Heat-related illnesses can be fatal, and employers areresponsible for keeping workers safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E.Perez. “Employers can take a few easy steps to save lives, including schedulingfrequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing ample time torest.” Thousandsof employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related workerillnesses. Labor-intensiveactivities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level thatnormally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heatrash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion and then heatstroke if simple preventative measures are not followed. Heat illnessdisproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat ,and it is especially dangerous for new and temporary workers. {{more}}“Acclimatization is a physical change that the body undergoesto build tolerance to heat, and it is a critical part of preventing heatillnesses and fatalities,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary oflabor for occupational safety and health. “Over the past three years, lack ofacclimatization was the cause in 74 percent of heat-related citations issued.Employers have a responsibility to provide workplaces that are safe fromrecognized hazards, including outdoor heat.” Last year, OSHA issued 11 heat-related citations. Insome of these cases, the employer and staffing agency were cited because theyinvolved temporary workers. In preparation forthe summer season, OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a curriculum to be used forworkplace training, also available in both English and Spanish. Additionally, a Web page providesinformation and resources on heat illness – including how to prevent it andwhat to do in case of an emergency – for workers and employers. The page isavailable at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.OSHA also hasreleased a free application for mobiledevices that enablesworkers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The appdisplays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as remindersabout protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. Since its2011 launch, more than 130,000 users have downloaded the app. Availablefor Android-based platforms and the iPhone, the app can be downloaded inEnglish and Spanish by visiting: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.In developing itsinaugural national campaign in 2011, federal OSHA worked closely with theCalifornia Occupational Safety and Health Administration and adapted materialsfrom that state’s successful campaign. Additionally, OSHA is partnering withthe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to incorporate workersafety precautions when heat alerts are issued across the nation. NOAA alsowill include pertinent worker safety information on its heat watch Web page at http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/heat.php.