Risk Insight: Preventing Workplace Heat Illness
With the summer heat quickly approaching, it’s important for employers to provide safe and suitable working conditions for their employees. According to OSHA, “Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.” Heat-related illnesses can cause long-term damage, so it’s important to protect every worker frequently exposed to extreme heat and humidity.
OSHA has taken steps to protect employees who are exposed to these extreme working conditions. OSHA’s goal is to guard employees from serious heat-related illness or death while working in hazardous hot indoor or outdoor locations.
OSHA’s Heat Illness Initiative for Region 5 will prioritize heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers must educate staff, establish emergency plans, and provide suitable working conditions to comply with OSHA’s initiative.
The bottom line: employers need to be proactive in order to address heat exposure.
A few of the essential first steps for employers are:
- Provide water, rest breaks, and shade at work stations
- Educate staff on symptoms of heat-related illnesses, as early detection will prevent potentially fatal situations among staff.
- Utilize OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool to determine heat index at your worksite, and understand the risk level for your outdoor workers
Summer heat is right around the corner, and employers would be well-served to consider their current heat illness prevention plans and risk mitigation strategies, including:
- Provide workers with shade, rest, and water
- Allow workers to build a heat tolerance by gradually increasing workloads
- Have an emergency plan and train workers to understand early signs of heat-related illnesses
Reach out to your M3 account executive or risk manager to discuss your current heat illness prevention plan and what strategies may serve your organization to better protect your employees.