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Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

It’s heating up outside, and workers in the humid South are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness (like heatstroke, which is a life-threatening condition if not immediately treated). OSHA has initiated a campaign designed to prevent heat-related illness, focusing on outdoor workers, such as those in construction, agriculture, transportation, grounds maintenance, and landscaping services. Here’s what OSHA wants us to share:

The Cause of Heat Illness

The body’s natural method of cooling itself is sweating. This works most of the time, but when the temperature and humidity is high, it isn’t enough to prevent the body’s temperature from rising to a dangerous level. Heat illness begins with heat rash, and then progresses to heatstroke, a serious condition that can result in death if not immediately treated.

How It Can Be Prevented

Preventing heat illness isn’t difficult, but it does take focus and thought. Employers should provide workers with plenty of water, rest, and shade. Workers need to be able to gradually increase their workloads, rather than jumping into work that they aren’t used to. Employers should require frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more, so that they can build a tolerance for heat. Work schedules should be modified as necessary to allow for these actions. Employers also need to be ready in case heat illness strikes a worker. They should have an emergency plan in place and educate workers on the symptoms of heat illness. Someone should be placed in charge of monitoring workers of signs of heat-related illness.
OSHA recommends the following:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Rest in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers.
  • Go easy on your first days of work in the heat.

For more information, and to learn how you can share the campaign, OSHA offers these resources:

  • Educational Resources that provide links to information about heat illnesses and how to prevent them
  • Using the Heat Index provides guidance to employers to develop a heat illness prevention plan
  • Training, with a guide/lesson plan for employers and others to use in instructing workers on heat illness
  • An Online Toolkit includes news releases and public service announcements
  • The Fatality Map is an interactive infographic representing heat-related fatalities that occurred outdoors between 2008 and 2014



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