The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on heat hazards. Through this, OSHA will be conducting proactive inspections for heat-related hazards—in both outdoor and indoor work environments. Is your facility ready for an inspection?
What can trigger a heat related inspection?
- If OSHA is conducting an investigation and observes hazardous heat conditions
- If it is going to be hot, heat index over 80, OSHA will inquire about heat-related hazard prevention programs during inspections
- High-risk industries including warehouses, construction, foundries, farming, waste collection can potentially incur an inspection. These will occur when the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory. OSHA will use neutral, objective criteria to select employers for pre-planned inspections in potential high-risk industries
- The Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor is encouraged to refer information about potential heat hazards to OSHA, so an investigation can occur via a referral from one agency to another
You should know that on hot days, OSHA may come knocking. All employers should be cognizant, and prepared for an inspection, especially on on hot days. This type of inspection can include:
- Review injury and illness logs and incident reports for entries indicating heat-related illness;
- Review records of heat-related emergency room visits and/or ambulance transport, even if hospitalization did not occur;
- Interview workers for heat illness symptoms like headache, dizziness, fainting, dehydration, etc.;
- Determine if the employer maintains a heat illness and injury prevention program, and consider whether the program addresses hydration, breaks, shade, acclimatization, training, and other relevant policies; and
- Document relevant conditions, such as the heat index, any NWS heat alerts, type of heat source (e.g., direct sunlight, proximity to furnace), any injured employee’s exertion level and duration of exposure to heat, and the like.
OSHA is committed to reducing heat hazards and is on a path toward a federal heat standard.
What can you do to protect your valued employees and insure you pass a heat hazard inspection?
- Provide sufficient rest, shade or cool space, and fluids.
- New and returning workers need to build tolerance (acclimatize) and take frequent breaks. Follow the 20% rule. On the first day, work no more than 20% of the shift’s duration at full intensity in the heat. Increase the duration of time at full intensity by no more than 20% a day until workers are used to working in the heat.
- Engineering controls such as air conditioning with cooled air, and increased air flow, leading to increased evaporative cooling, can make the workplace safer.
- Other options for keeping body temperatures down in warm environments include making changes to workload and schedules (e.g., work shorter shifts, schedule work earlier or later in the day, limit strenuous work, or take frequent breaks).
- Proper hydration (e.g., drinking 1 cup [8 oz.] of water or sports drink every 15–20 minutes).
- Wear a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing if possible.
- Monitor yourself and others for signs of heat illness.
If you suspect a heat illness, what should you do?
- Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness. The signs of heat stroke are abnormal thinking or behavior (e.g., confusion), unconsciousness (i.e., passing out), slurred speech, and seizures. A high a body temperature (>104°F) is also common.
- Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death. Call 911 immediately, cool the worker with ice or cold water, and stay with the worker until help arrives.
- Heat exhaustion is the next most serious heat related health problem. The following signs and symptoms are typical of heat exhaustion: tiredness or weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, headache, thirst, decreased urine output, nausea or vomiting, heavy sweating, or hot, dry skin. Workers with heat exhaustion may also have an elevated body temperature (>100.4°F).
- Workers with heat exhaustion should be moved to a cooler area. Remove unnecessary clothing. Cool the worker with ice, a fan, or frequent sips of water. A person with heat illness may not experience all the signs and symptoms listed. If symptoms worsen, do not leave the worker alone, call 911, and get help immediately.
Haylor, Freyer & Coon, Inc. is here with a full team of safety/loss control specialist to assist with creating a heat safety plan. We are also available if, you unfortunately find yourself in OSHA's crosshairs. In addition, OSHA provides many resources on their website.
For assistance with this or any safety concern, please complete the form below and we can be in touch to assist you.