For workers, summer wanes but the heat remains
Last time, as part of our impromptu series on heat safety this historic climate summer, we identified occupations with the worst heat risk, with tips on how to avoid or mitigate the hazards of working in excessive heat.
As we turn the calendar toward autumn, a reminder: OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on heat, initiated in 2022, continues to focus on enforcing heat safety in geographic areas and in industries with the most vulnerable workers. And while heat-specific workplace safety laws are not yet on the books, OSHA is working to publish a proposed standard on worker heat illness prevention, and currently is soliciting feedback from small businesses for this effort.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t laws and standards in place right now to protect workers from the heat. Not only do employers have a moral responsibility to not assign work in high heat conditions without protections in place for workers, the OSHA Act, in place for more than a half-century, also provides wide workplace hazard protections to workers. This is true even in Texas, despite its recent law limiting local ordinances on heat illness protections, according to OSHA.
As the planet warms and the hazards frow, expect more inspection activity as well as a broader use of enforcement tools, especially where workers are in clear danger from this known occupational hazard where awareness and implementation could be the difference between a safe workplace and literally being worked to death.
MEMIC offers these compliance tips to ensure employers and worker organizations in any industry have the tools to protect workers from hazardous heat:
- At a minimum, employers should provide adequate cool water, rest breaks, and shade or a cool rest area for employees.
- Give new or returning employees the chance to gradually acclimatize (or become used to working in hot temperatures), to be trained and plan for emergencies, and to monitor for heat signs/symptoms.
- Train employees on heat illness prevention, signs of heat illness, and how to act immediately if they or another employee appears to be suffering from a heat related illness.
- Every worker covered under the OSHA Act has the right to a safe and healthful workplace. Workers can file a confidential complaint with OSHA if they believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, by calling 1-800-321-OSHA or online.
If you need more guidance on heat protection methods for your workforce, contact MEMIC or visit www.osha.gov/heat.