With Independence Day just a week away, temperatures are on the rise across the country and some areas have already seen record-breaking heat this summer. Although OSHA does not have specific regulations concerning the management of employee heat stress, the General Duty Clause of the 1970 OSHA Act has been used to cite employers that have allowed employees to be exposed to potential serious physical harm from excessively hot work environments.
In a 2001 Letter of Interpretation, OSHA notes that the following “feasible and acceptable methods can be used to reduce heat stress hazards in workplaces”:
- Permitting workers to drink water at liberty;
- Establishing provisions for a work/rest regimen so that exposure time to high temperatures and/or the work rate is decreased;
- Developing a heat stress program which incorporates the following:
- A training program informing employees about the effects of heat stress, and how to recognize heat-related illness symptoms and prevent heat-induced illnesses;
- A screening program to identify health conditions aggravated by elevated environmental temperatures;
- An acclimation program for new employees or employees returning to work from absences of three or more days;
- Specific procedures to be followed for heat-related emergency situations;
- Provisions that first aid be administered immediately to employees displaying symptoms of heat-related illness.
OSHA has also created a page where employers can find more information on occupational heat exposure.
Additionally, NATA offers, as part of its Safety 1st program, an OSHA training module on heat stress. This online training module:
- Explains how your body handles heat
- Helps employees understand how hot environments increase likelihood of accidents
- Explains how and why your body cooling system may fail
- Identifies the types of heat-related illnesses
- Explores the environment factors and unique personal factors causing heat illness
- Reviews the basic preventative measures to reduce the risk of heat stress