OSHA's Campaign

Author: Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.

OSHA's Campaign

The campaign to prevent heat illness for outdoors workers is another great action of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in its effort to provide safety at the workplace.
Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, which can even lead to death when not caught in time, and/or neglected. This issue can be especially important for the electric power industry, since there are many situations where workers can be doing their job under the scorching heat of the sun and thus can be exposed to extreme harsh conditions.

Although overseeing harsh work conditions should be an obligation of the employers and shared by the employees, it is of utmost importance that there are agencies unrelated to the primary business of an entity that are taking a significant part in employees safety. In this respect OSHA’s determination is extremely important, and by the combined efforts of all, heat related illnesses and deaths can be successfully prevented. This however requires the hard work of knowledgeable individuals committed to success.

OSHA’s efforts are in the direction of raising awareness pertaining to the dangers of working in over heated weather, and since utilities are among the industries that are most affected by heat-related illness, employers should be well aware of what can happen to individuals exposed to harsh heat. OSHA also teaches employers that those who do not have built up a tolerance to hot conditions would most likely be prone to a greater risk than others. It should be well known that those exposed to hot and humid conditions can also be at risk of heat illness. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and if not diagnosed on time may result in death. This is especially true when the workers are using heavy protective clothing and equipment while performing heavy work endeavors.

Further, OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention Campaign also aims in providing powerful resources to address these concerns. The campaign started in 2011 and so far has undergone enormous organizational and actual activities. OSHA has reached more than 7 million people in the US, in its efforts to raise awareness and provide guidance for self-protection and prevention of unnecessary and dangerous heat exposure. The agency has distributed “close to half a million fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides and wallet cards.” (OSHA, heatillness, 2011)

Employers in endangered industries should include training in preventing heat illness and guidance of what to be done in an emergency situation. In addition to wearing self-protective equipment, OSHA's key pieces of advice to workers include the need to learn to recognize the signs of heat illness and take it seriously. Checking upon your fellow worker is as important as taking some time to rest in a cooler environment.

The Heat Fatality map that can be accessed at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/map.html is a very helpful tool that can teach and protect. The map displays the locations of outdoor workers' heat-related fatalities between the years2008 and 2013 that have been reported by employees covered by Federal or State OSHA. The information is from preliminary and final investigation reports, and thus is relatively well updated. It also provides for each fatality, information about the type of workplace, task, and work conditions if available, which makes the map a valuable preventive tool. By clicking on a specific pin on the map, different work related conditions are displayed, and thus valuable information can be derived.

In its efforts OSHA is not alone. The agency is partnering with federal and state agencies, and non-governmental organizations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA).

The agencies’ essential reminder is: Water, Rest, Shade. (OSHA, heatillness, 2011) They recap that "taking these precautions can be the difference between life and death."

Disclosure: Please note that none of the information contained within the above column is to be considered legal advice.

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