Worker Heat Health and Safety

With summer’s arrival, we can anticipate sunny days and soaring temperatures over the next few months. Although there is not a regulated maximum temperature for workplaces, OSHA’s General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health ACT of 1970 states that employers are required to provide a place of employment that “is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” This includes heat related hazards.

 

Where are employees at risk for heat exposure?

Exposure to heat generating sources, high temperature environments and even protective clothing or PPE can increase the risk of heat exposure for your employees. Hazardous heat exposure can occur in indoor or outdoor occupational settings, and in a variety of industries.

 

Some industries where this may be aconcern are:

  • Construction
  • Warehousing
  • Agriculture
  • Mills and foundries
  • Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Hospitality industries that work with indoor heat generating sources

 

How to promote a heat-healthy workplace

All employees should be provided with sufficient rest, shade and fluids. More frequent breaks in a cool, shaded environment can keep employees healthy and productive. Engineering controls such as air-conditioning in certain areas, increased ventilation, or reduction of manual labor with the assistance of mechanized equipment can all play a role in reducing your employer's exposure to heat. Additionally, plan ahead for extreme weather conditions. Refer often to local weather guidance to prepare for projects, and promote workplace safety.

 

New employees and those employees returning to work in a warmer environment are the most susceptible to heat related illness, as they have not acclimated to the increased temperatures. Extra precautions for these workers, such as more frequent breaks, shorter schedules and training about heat illnesses and their symptoms should be implemented.

 

To learn about the types of heat illness that could affect your employees, visit our overview here: Workers and Heat Related Illnesses

 

What if your employees have pre-existing conditions?

Each employee will respond differently to heat exposure. Those employees who have underlying conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes may have a lower heat tolerance. Certain medications may also affect how an individual responds to the heat. Employers should plan for the safety of all employees, regardless of their pre-existing conditions. Periodic health screenings can help you identify employees which may be at a higher risk for heat illness and need additional accommodation, while ensuring that their personal health information remains confidential.

 

Checking to see if your employees are fit for duty

NMS Health's service is designed to make the screening process simple and less time consuming for your hiring teams. Our team of medical experts will help you establish a health screening program that is right for your company. With a large network of clinic partners, we've got coverage in all 50 states!

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