According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exposure to environmental heat led to 37 work-related deaths in 2015 and 2,839 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. OSHA reports that more than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but warns that all industries are susceptible to heat-related deaths or injuries. And these are just the recorded instances; a recent study confirmed that 90 percent of employers do not comply with OSHA record keeping regulations.
An understanding of the signs and symptoms of heat stress are extremely important so that if you, or someone on your job site starts to experience any of them you can act immediately. Remember, the risk of heat stroke dramatically increases when the heat index reaches 90 degrees or more. Heat index doesn't just refer to the temperature that you see on the thermometer, heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. Heat index is better known as the "feels-like" temperature. For this reason, it's essential to monitor both the temperature and the heat index throughout the day; the human body responds to heat index...not just the actual temperature.
While onsite, it's important for workers to stay hydrated, find shade, and take breaks often. Working long hours in high temperatures can use the bodies internal temperature to rise resulting in discomfort, fatigue, and in some cases, heat stress or heat stroke. According to the CDC, extreme heat causes an average of 658 deaths in the U.S. every year. Having preventative measures in place can help drastically reduce the number of heat related illnesses on the job.
Heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are a very real threat for workers during the summer months. It’s important to plan and prepare for these situations. Download our OSHA Heat-Related Illness Prevention Training Checklist to ensure you, your crews, and your work site are prepared for the hot weather.Download Hot Weather Checklist for Safety Managers