This week, Missourians are enjoying a brief respite from traditional July temperatures, but forecasts indicate that the summer heat will be back before we know it. Did you know that an average of 1,500 people die each year from exposure to excessive heat? There are also various different heat-related illnesses that are a particular hazard to those who work outdoors - especially in dangerous summer temperatures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a national outreach campaign to educate employers and workers about the dangers of working in the heat.
"If you're working outdoors, you're at risk for heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "But heat illness can be prevented. This Labor Department campaign will reach across the country with a very simple message - water, rest and shade."
Many Missouri outdoor job sites in the summers have radiant heat sources, along with high temperatures and humidity levels. The work frequently includes heavy physical labor and/or direct physical contact with hot objects. These factors directly increase the chances for heat stress-related illness.
For these reasons, OSHA has long had safety standards in place to prevent heat-related illness and fatalities; this issue is certainly not a new one. However, unfortunately, there are still too many Missouri employers and job supervisors who don't follow OSHA's regulations, putting their employees at risk.
Different heat illnesses and their symptoms include heat stroke, dehydration, cramps, rashes, fainting. The main kinds of work sites where employees are at risk of heat illnesses are construction sites, farms, laundries, bakeries/kitchens, mining sites and foundries. However, if you do any work outdoors for your employer, and suffer any of these heat-related illnesses on the job, you may be covered by Missouri Workers' Compensation.
OSHA's heat illness prevention standards were changed in 2012 to include a "high heat provision." This means that when the temps hit 95 degrees, five specific industries must implement the following procedures:
• observing employees for signs of heat related distress
• closely supervising new employees
• reminding all employees throughout the shift to drink water
The five industries targeted by these provisions are agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy material.