NOAA, OSHA: Watch Out for Excessive Heat

The National Weather Service and OSHA have partnered to increase awareness for outdoor workers and their employers during excessive heat events, with NWS incorporating specific outdoor worker safety precautions when heat advisories and warnings are issued. OSHA and Department of Labor again are reminding employers and workers this week to take precautions to protect themselves before a heat wave begins.

How much heat can a person safely endure? It depends, NOAA reminded us this week, saying between 1999 and 2009, more than 7,200 people died from heat-related causes, an average of 658 per year, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Heat can be a silent killer because it doesn't topple trees or rip roofs off houses like tornadoes and hurricanes," said Eli Jacks, chief of fire and public weather services with NOAA's National Weather Service. "Nevertheless, it's a dangerous weather condition for which people should prepare."

The agency notes certain groups of people should be especially careful during hot weather conditions, such as people who have limited mobility or health conditions and elderly people.

The National Weather Service and OSHA have partnered to increase awareness for outdoor workers and their employers during excessive heat events, with NWS incorporating specific outdoor worker safety precautions when heat advisories and warnings are issued. OSHA and Department of Labor again are reminding employers and workers this week to take precautions to protect themselves before a heat wave begins, following the OSHA advice: Water. Rest. Shade.

On hot days, the agency recommends frequent breaks in a cool or shady environment and drinking water every 15 minutes and encourages employers to allow new workers to acclimate and build up resistance to increased temperatures, saying a recent study of heat-related workplace fatalities found that most occurred during the worker's first week on the job.

To join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #WaterRestShade.

NOAA reminds everyone to be informed and stay alert in order to prevent heat-related illness:

  • Pay close attention to heat advisories or warnings that have been issued for your community; NWS updates heat-related advisories and warnings online at weather.gov (click on "Excessive Heat Warning" and "Heat Advisory" under the U.S. map).
  • NOAA issues excessive heat warnings when weather conditions pose an imminent threat to life and heat advisories when weather conditions are expected to cause significant discomfort or inconvenience or, if caution is not taken, become life threatening. If you do not have Internet access, you can get heat advisory and warning information by watching your local television or radio newscast or by purchasing a NOAA weather radio and tuning into NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards.
  • Use the temperature and humidity to figure out the heat index for your area.

Also, plan for periods of extreme heat:

  • Visit your physician for a checkup to find out whether you have a health condition that may be exacerbated by hot weather.
  • Service your air conditioner before hot weather arrives and obtain window fans to help cool your home.
  • Know where to go when weather heats up. Find cool indoor places to spend time on hot summer days, such as a local library, shopping mall, museum, or aquarium.

Finally, during hot weather:

  • DO slow down and reduce strenuous activity; dress in lightweight, nonrestrictive, light-colored clothing; drink plenty of water or other nonalcoholic fluids; eat light, easy-to-digest foods; seek out shade if you have to be outdoors for extended periods; spend more time in air-conditioned places; check on elderly neighbors, friends, and relatives to make sure they are okay; take frequent dips in the ocean or pool when outside or mist yourself with a water bottle; when inside, take frequent cool baths or showers and use cold compresses to cool off; apply high-SPF sunscreen frequently when outdoors; and seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of heat illness.
  • DO NOT leave children, the elderly, or pets in the car for any reason for any length of time; stay in the sun for long periods; take salt tablets unless directed by a physician; drink alcoholic beverages, because they can dehydrate you and increase your risk of heat stroke and other potentially fatal heat-related illnesses.

Too much exposure to heat can raise your body temperature to unhealthy levels and may make you ill, NOAA warns.

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