Does OSHA Provide Rules for Working in Hot Environments?

August 8, 2014

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not provide rules for working in hot environments, the OSHA Act says that “employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards.”

Heat illness will occur if certain safety precautions are not taken to help an employee cool off. Below are the types of workers that are generally at risk of heat illness:

  • Workers performing strenuous activity
  • Workers wearing heavy or non-breathable protective clothing
  • Workers who are new to an outside job

According to OSHA, workers that are new to an outside job are the most common victims of heat illness. A study found that 80 percent of heat illness cases involved workers that were new to a job. This occurs because the human body has to build up a tolerance to working outside.

Why Is It Important for Employers to Monitor the Heat Index?

As stated before, employers have the responsibility to protect their workers from known hazards. OSHA says that it is important for employers to monitor the heat index so that they can prepare safety plans for helping their employees deal with the heat.

The heat index is a measure of temperature and humidity. A person working outside will feel hot based off those two variables.

In other words, the higher the index, the hotter the weather is. When the weather is humid, a person’s sweat does not evaporate and cool the skin as quickly.

OSHA recommends employers take the following steps:

  • Develop an illness prevention plan.
  • Train workers to treat and prevent heat illness.
  • Track the heat index daily, and tell employees if any additional precautions are necessary.
  • When the heat index is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the illness prevention plan should go into effect.

Did You Know? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.


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