OSHA Renews Heat Illness Prevention Campaign

Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said the agency is partnering with NOAA again this year with its nationwide campaign.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels held a news conference May 7 to announce the start of OSHA's 2012 Heat Illness Prevention Campaign.

Like the 2011 campaign, it will be a nationwide effort to educate workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in high heat and how to prevent heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke. An estimated 4,200 workers suffered heat illnesses last year and as many as 40 died as a result, Michaels said, although he noted there may be many deaths related to heat illnesses where the role of heat is not recognized or identified as a cause of death. "We're getting the information out to really remind employers that this is a very important hazard," he said.

OSHA's website includes a page of industry-specific educational materials and resources, including a new heat illness smartphone app in English or Spanish. Michaels urged employers and workers to visit the page and share the resources with workers who are exposed to heat, whether indoors or outdoors. He said OSHA is partnering again this year with NOAA, which included some occupational information its national excessive heat warnings last year and will do so again in 2012.

A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report paper from July 2006 found that 3,442 deaths caused by exposure to extreme heat, or in which extreme heat exposure was a contributing factor, were reported in the United States from 1999 through 2003. The state with the highest average annual hyperthermia death rate during that period was Arizona (1.7 deaths per 100,000 population), followed by Nevada and Missouri, according to the authors.

Twenty agricultural groups are helping Cal/OSHA promote its 2012 health illness prevention training series. Cal/OSHA's deputy chief, Chris Lee, and Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League held a news conference April 5 to call attention to the free training, which is provided in English and Spanish. California enacted a heat illness prevention standard in 2006.

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