As summer approaches, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds us to be aware of workplace heat risks. OSHA Chief David Michaels said in a June 10 media conference that the agency’s heat illness prevention advice still focuses on three words: “Water. Rest. Shade.” Michaels noted that workers in outdoor jobs face the highest seasonal heat risks, especially young men. “They are the ones who think they are immortal,” he said.
As such, Michaels called upon employers to allow workers time to acclimate to hot weather. Noting, “It’s very important to allow workers to build up their heat tolerance,” the OSHA administrator said.
A 2014 OSHA analysis of 13 heat-related fatalities for which the agency issued citations found that four of the deaths occurred on the worker’s first day on the job and five others on the second or third day.
Since OSHA began its annual summer heat campaign in 2011, fatalities have dropped by about 50 percent. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 34 workers died from heat stress, down from 61 deaths in 2011, according to DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). From 2003 through 2013, there was an average of 36 heat-induced workplace deaths annually.
White non-Hispanic workers in 2013 accounted for 53 percent (18) of the deaths, Hispanic workers 29 percent (10 deaths) and blacks 12 percent (four).
“Business Services” – a category that includes temporary worker agencies and landscaping – and construction each employed 11 of the workers who died. Four of the workers who died worked in agriculture or fishing jobs.
As for heat-induced illness and injuries, 3,106 people missed at least one day of work while recovering from heat-induced illnesses in 2013, the BLS said.
For more information on heat illness prevention, go to: www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html. OSHA’s mobile phone heat app may be downloaded at www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.