With summer temperatures on the rise, state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administrations are reminding all employers to be prepared to protect outdoor workers from heat illness. Heat illness is more likely to occur during the transitional period between spring and summer as temperatures start to climb and workers are not yet accustomed to working at full capacity. State and federal law require employers to monitor outdoor workers assigned to high heat areas. Key prevention measures such as providing water, rest, shade, and training should be implemented as workers begin acclimatizing.
Consider taking the following steps to lower the risk of heat illness associated with high heat and increased humidity:
- Allow workers time to acclimatize: Provide workers with the opportunity to gradually acclimatize over a specific period (e.g., 4 – 10 days) starting in two-hour increments. This process should be repeated throughout the summer months for workers moving into hotter temperature locations or those recovering from illness.
- Provide heat management necessities:
- Water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge. Employers should provide water sufficient for each worker to drink at least 1 quart of water per hour.
- Additional rest opportunities should be provided and encouraged to protect from overheating. Remind workers they should take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so and not to wait until they feel the effects of heat illness.
- Shade should be readily available for workers to cool off at any time, especially when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encouraging works to wear wide brimmed hats will also help mitigate heat exposure.
- Be mindful of high humidity: When it comes to heat illness, high humidity poses as great a threat as high temperatures. Lower temperature, high humidity days, can still lead to dangerous working conditions. Because high humidity slows evaporation it can disrupt the body’s natural cooling mechanism causing internal body temperatures to rise and heat illness to develop.
- Plan and train: State and federal law require employer to develop and implement effective heat illness prevention plans (must be written in California). These plans should include emergency response procedures and take into consideration the need to train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
For more information on preventing heat illness checkout these helpful resources:
- Industrial Commission of Arizona: HeatStress | Industrial Commission of Arizona (azica.gov)
- Cal/OSHA: Heat Illness Prevention web page and the 99calor.org informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.
- U.S. Dept. of Labor OSHA: OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign.