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OSHA's 2012 heat-illness awareness campaign now underway

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced earlier this month that it was once again launching an educational campaign designed to inform both employers and employees of a potentially deadly work injury: excessive heat exposure (i.e., heat exhaustion and heat stroke).

The campaign -- which is modeled after California OHSA's heat awareness materials -- features a curriculum for workplace training, an informative agency web page and an ongoing partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to include worker safety warnings with broadcasted heat alerts.

"For outdoor workers, 'water, rest and shade' are three words that can make the difference between life and death," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "If employers take reasonable precautions, and look out for their workers, we can beat the heat."

While it may seem easy to dismiss, heat exposure poses a real threat to employee safety. In fact, OSHA statistics indicate that the work injury has been responsible for over 30 work fatalities every year since 2003.

One of the more novel aspects of this year's heat awareness campaign is the release of a new app for Android-based smartphones and iPhones that enables both employers and employees to monitor the heat index at their respective worksites. In addition, the app provides reminders -- in both English and Spanish -- about protective measures that should be taken at that particular heat index.

For those unfamiliar with Cal/OSHA's heat safety rules, they are rather complex. A few of the more interesting provisions are outlined below:

  • If temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, shaded shelter capable of protecting at least 25 percent of on-shift employees from the sun must be provided and located as close to the worksite as possible. If temperatures are 85 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, employers must honor employee requests for shaded shelter in a timely manner.
  • If providing the aforementioned shaded shelter proves hazardous and/or unreasonable, an employer may utilize a different measure for providing access to shade so long as it provides the same level of heat protection.
  • If employers are able to provide the same level of heat protection, they may utilize alternative cooling measures - fans, air conditioning, etc. (Please note, this does not apply to employers in the agricultural sector.)
  • If temperatures reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above, employers must take care to remind employees to consume water, monitor employees for indications of heat exhaustion/heat stroke and carefully observe all new employees.
  • These rules apply to employers in the following sectors: agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and certain transportation/delivery industries.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Labor, "U.S. Labor Department kicks off summer campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses and fatalities among outdoor workers" May 7, 2012

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, "Cal/OSHA Implements Updated Heat Safety Regulations" Nov. 2010

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