Outdoor Workers Face Dangers From Working in Extreme Heat

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), excessive heat kills more people, on average, each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined.  For those working outdoors in South Texas, heat conditions can be especially problematic.  Employees and employers should be aware of the problems that can arise when working in excessive heat and how to deal with them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that thousands of preventable illnesses and some deaths occur on-the-job every year. Despite this fact, no rule exists protecting workers from workingissue a rule protecting workers from extreme heat. In 1972, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended a heat standard, but OSHA has still failed to implement it.

OSHA’s website instructs those working outdoors in excessive heat to: 

  • Drink water often
  • Rest in the shade
  • Report heat symptoms early

The steps listed above can help prevent heat illnesses and death.  OSHA  provides an outline that summarizes the protective measures, such as more frequent rest breaks, that should be taken at varying heat indices.

OSHA also recommends that employers allow new workers or those workers not used to working in excessive heat to build up a tolerance.  This is done by allowing workers to gradually increase their workload or take more frequent breaks than other workers.

The OSHA website has more detailed information on working outdoors in excessive heat. Further, the NOAA’s Heat Watch Page issues extreme heat alerts with worker safety precautions.


Related: "OSHA Declines to Issue Rule Protecting Workers From Heat" - In These Times