Feeling the Heat? How to Protect Outdoor Workers During the Hot Summer Months
Summertime means vacation and fun for many Americans. However, the risk of heat-related illnesses for outdoor workers increases significantly as the weather gets hotter and more humid. Construction workers, landscapers, agricultural workers, and baggage handlers have particularly increased risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
It is important for employers of outdoor workers to monitor what is referred to as the “heat index.” This index is a single value that takes temperature and humidity into account. As the heat index rises, workers will have a difficult time staying cool and their sweat won’t evaporate as quickly to cool the skin. The heat index is a better measure than air temperature to estimate the risk to workers from environmental heat sources.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. However, under the OSH Act, employers do have a duty to protect workers from hazardous in the workplace (which include heat-related hazards). Different protective measures need to be taken by the employer at different heat indexes. OSHA has a great guide to help employers and supervisors prepare and implement hot weather plans here:
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