OSHA to lead media teleconference on protecting workers from dangers of soaring temperatures
Discussion will include private sector efforts to reduce heat-related illnesses, injuries
By Mandy Kraft
Rising temperatures across the country are putting workers at risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries and, thankfully, an increasing number of employers are taking steps to protect them.
To help all employers understand better the potential dangers for workers exposed to high temperatures outdoors and indoors, especially during the summer months, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a media teleconference on Monday, June 27, led by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
National Waste and Recycling Association National Safety Director Anthony Hargis and Republic Services Inc. Vice President of Safety and Environmental Compliance Jim Olson will join Dr. Michaels on the call.
The teleconference will highlight recent efforts to combat heat risks and challenge all employers to build heat awareness into their operations. In 2015, OSHA received more than 200 reports of heat-related worker hospitalizations, and at least eight deaths associated with heat exposure. The agency is currently investigating several worker fatalities reported in 2016.
“Every heat-related death we investigate was preventable, in most cases by simply providing water, rest and shade,” said Dr. Michaels. “When temperatures soar, it’s vital that employers remember workers need time to develop a tolerance to the heat. In recent years, many of the heat-related fatalities we’ve seen occurred during the victim’s first three days on the job.”
Under federal law, employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of their workers. This responsibility includes protecting workers from heat illness during the hot summer months – and not only during extreme heat episodes when temperatures hit triple digits. Under the right circumstances, temperatures well below 100 degrees can lead to illness and hospitalization or even death.
OSHA has highlighted the risks of working in heat through its water-rest-shade campaign and also provides a free heat app for both iPhone and Android devices.
The NWRA is a leading solid waste industry trade association that recently led a nationwide safety stand down campaign focused on heat exposure. Republic is one of the nation’s largest non-hazardous solid waste and recycling services provider to commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers.
Recognizing those risks, the NWRA launched its own water-rest-shade campaign earlier in 2016 involving large and small waste management companies nationwide. The campaign included safety stand-downs that attained participation by about 70 percent of the entire U.S. waste hauling industry.
During Monday’s call, Dr. Michaels will acknowledge noteworthy efforts by various employers, and challenge companies to use social media to share their experiences and successes in combating heat-related illnesses.
About the Author
Mandy Kraft is a Public Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Department of Labor.