OSHA heralds the arrival of summer with a reminder that heat illness can be deadly. Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, and some even die.
Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable. Employers are legally responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. Heat illnesses range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke—when excessive heat causes someone’s body temperature to reach 104 degrees F (40 C) or higher—requires immediate medical attention and can result in death.
OSHA urges employers to establish a complete heat illness prevention program, which includes:
- Providing workers with water, rest and shade
- Gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more
- Modifying work schedules as necessary, avoiding midday activities
- Planning for emergencies and training workers about prevention of heat-related illnesses
- Monitoring workers for signs of illness.
Supervisors have a key role to play, OSHA says. They should remind workers to:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if they’re not thirsty
- Rest in the shade to cool down
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
- Keep an eye on fellow workers
- Take it easy on the first few days of working in the heat.
Find more OSHA heat illness prevention resources.