OSHA Developing a New Heat Specific Workplace Standard
Summertime is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors. However, employees required to work in areas where there may be excessive heat are subject to a number of heat related illnesses up to and including heat stroke.
OSHA has had a concern about this for the past several years and published an Advanced Notice of Rule Making on October 27, 2021. OSHA has advised that a standard specific to heat related injuries and illnesses prevention would more clearly set forth employer obligations and measures necessary to more effectively protect employees from hazardous heat.
Although a new standard has not yet been published, OSHA can still cite companies under the general duty clause if they believe a company has failed to adequately protect employees from excessive heat exposure. OSHA has published the following articles that are available on the OSHA.gov website:
· OSHA Fact Sheet
o Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat OSHA Quick Card
o Protecting Workers from Heat Stress
These are excellent resources to help. The fact sheet outlines a heat illness prevention program. This includes the following:
· Designate a person to oversee the Heat Illness Prevention Program.
· Identify areas where heat exposure could be a serious problem.
· Provide employees training on the causes of heat stress and the systems and preventative measures.
· Allow employees to acclimatize to the increase in heat.
· Provide plenty of water and a place out of the sun or in a cool area.
· Know the symptoms and make sure all employees are aware of these.
· Modify the work schedule if necessary to keep employees out of the hottest part of the day. Also, if possible, reduce exposure time on hot jobs by rotating employees if possible.
· Provide cooling vests where excessive hot work is required.
· If workers are required to work outside make hats and sunglasses available. Also, advise employees to wear light clothing.
· Indoors provide plenty of cool air by using fans where necessary. Also, isolate hot equipment and processes by shielding if possible.
· Know what to do in case an employee is suffering a heat related illness.
· Advise employees to avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine and high sugar content. Also, avoid heavy meals which takes blood away from the outer skin.
· Constantly monitor the work activity. Have employees, where possible use a buddy system to watch for signs of heat illnesses.
The above guidelines will go a long way to help reduce the possibility of an employee suffering a serious heat related illness.
Remember at this time of the year, heat exposure is a serious issue. Put your plan together and implement it. Do not wait until OSHA shows up.
By: Gary Hanson- American Safety and Health Management