Keeping Safe While Working in the Heat


Surya Narayan - July 21, 2022 -

Keeping Safe While Working in the Heat

A handsome engineer or male construction worker in protective clothing and a helmet, is drinking water to quench his thirst in the harsh sunlight.

This year the heat has come early in Oregon and Washington. The area experienced temperatures well over 100 in late June. We can always use a reminder about keeping safe while working in the heat.

OSHA’s safety message regarding working in the heat comes down to three words: Water. Rest. Shade. Employers are responsible for protecting workers from known safety hazards, including extreme heat. All employers should develop a heat illness prevention program.

Workers can build up a tolerance to working in the heat, but in the first few days they need to take precautions to prevent heat illness. Employers should encourage workers to:

  • Consume adequate fluids, both water and sports drinks
  • Work shorter shifts
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Quickly identify any signs or symptoms of heat illness

Supervisors may want to look at scheduling work earlier in the day or starting shifts early so workers aren’t active during the heat of the day. Workers should slow down and take frequent rest breaks in the shade or away from potential heat sources.

There are many factors that contribute to the effect that heat will have on the body. The NIOSH/OSHA Heat App (available for Android and Apple devices) has a simple heat calculator that can be used to determine if conditions are hazardous to workers. The app is based on the heat index, which takes both temperature and humidity into account.

Remember that employers are responsible for protecting workers from hazards on the job site, including heat. During heat waves like the one we just had, work may need to be rescheduled to keep everyone safe.

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