Don’t Sweat It: Learn About Working Safely in the Heat with These 5 Resources
With much of the world facing high temperatures, employers and workers need to know how to protect their employees and themselves.
- By Alex Saurman
- Jul 17, 2023
As temperatures continue to remain high in many parts of the country (and the world), employers can’t ignore the fact that the heat impacts employees.
In 2021, 36 workers died from exposure to environmental heat. Although it’s down 20 fatalities from the year prior, it’s still not the lowest number of environmental-heat-related worker deaths the U.S. has seen in the last decade, per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This year, we’re already seeing stories about workers dying after being in high temperatures.
On June 16, 2023, in Missouri City, Texas—a city outside Houston—a 46-year-old worker died from hyperthermia—when the body’s temperature is above normal—after pouring concrete on a job site, KTRK-TV reported.
On January 1, 2023, a 28-year-old worker in Florida who had mentioned fatigue and leg pain was found unresponsive. The heat index in Parkland, Florida, reached almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day, OSHA reported. In a news release, OSHA Area Office Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said, "The first day of 2023 was this young worker's last because his employer failed to take simple steps to protect him from heat exposure, a known and dangerous hazard.”
With summer not yet over, employers and employees must take action to protect workers in the heat. What resources can employers and workers use to learn more about staying safe in the heat? Let’s check out just a few.
NIOSH’s Web Page on Heat Stress
Want to learn about the dangers of heat stress and how to prevent it? Check out the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)’s web page on the topic. Here, you can also find information on acclimating to the heat, the heat burden of PPE and heat-related illnesses, symptoms and what to do when workers exhibit symptoms. (As a bonus, graphics on heat exhaustion and heat stroke symptoms and responses are available from The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and the National Weather Service.)
OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Web Page
If you’re looking for information on what employers need to do and workers’ rights, OSHA has you covered. Beyond this web page, the agency provides additional information on staying safe in the heat. Employers can learn how the General Duty Clause relates to heat, about heat-related trainings, what should be included in a heat illness prevention plan, and so much more. If you’re also looking for graphics, the agency provides downloadable files on hydration, sun protection, heat illness and other topics.
OSHA and NIOSH’s Heat Safety Tool
Want to know what precautions should be taken when working outside on a given day? On OSHA and NIOSH’s Heat Safety Tool, available on Android and iPhone, users can input their location and see the temperature, humidity and heat index along with the threat level (labeled “caution,” “warning” and “danger”). The app will also list precautions that should be taken on that day. Users can also use the app to set reminders to hydrate and take a break.
Urine Color Chart
One component of staying safe in the heat is something many people do daily but might not think about: staying hydrated. Employees can tell if they’re sufficiently hydrated by looking at the color of their urine. Consider educating workers about the meaning behind their urine color or hanging a urine color chart in rest areas or individual bathroom stalls. (OSHA has a chart available for download.)
Working in the heat is a topic OH&S has featured thoroughly in the past several years. From podcast episodes to short- and long-form articles, we’ve got you covered.
Historically High Heat: How Temperatures Influence Safety Programs. The summers are not getting any cooler. Listen in to this podcast episode as Sydny Shepard discusses predicted high temperatures and what you can do—now—to ensure workers are safe in the summer.
Beat the Heat: Planning for Extreme Temperatures & Reducing Productivity Loss. The conversation about keeping workers safe in extreme temperatures is heating up. On this episode of OH&S SafetyPod, Alex Risen from Big Ass Fans discusses how airflow can help cool employees down leading to a more safe and comfortable workspace.
Hydrating in the Heat. Drinking water and staying hydrated is a simple task that can make a huge difference. Learn how much water employees should drink, what their urine color means and if other beverages affect hydration in this article.
Heat Stroke: Teach the TACO Method. If cold water immersion is not an option, the Tarp-Assisted Cooling Oscillation method for treating heat stroke sufferers can save lives on remote jobsites.
Understanding the Heat Burden While Wearing Personal Protective Clothing. Learn how PPE can affect employees who work in heat.
The Dangers of Heat: Different Types of Heat-Related Illnesses. As workers are exposed to heat, they can be at risk for heat-related illnesses. Find out what a few of them are.