Understanding Heat Illness and OSHA Regulations to Keep Workers Safe
Heat illness is a serious occupational hazard that affects millions of workers every year. With climate change causing temperatures to rise, the risk of heat-related illness is becoming an increasingly prevalent concern. In this blog post, we will discuss heat illness and how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has put in place rules to keep workers safe. Furthermore, we will explore how a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) like Innoworks can help businesses in setting up these programs and providing resources to keep their workers safe when exposed to heat.
Heat Illness: An Overview
Heat illness occurs when the body is unable to cool itself down properly, resulting in a dangerous rise in core body temperature. This can lead to various health issues such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. Workers who are exposed to hot environments, physically demanding tasks, or are wearing heavy protective clothing are at a higher risk of suffering from heat illness.
OSHA Regulations on Heat Illness
OSHA has established guidelines to prevent heat illness in the workplace. These guidelines are recommended by OSHA to protect yourself and others as nearly 3 out of 4 fatalities from heat illness happen during the first week of work.
Ways to protect yourself and others:
- Drink Cool Water – Drink cool water even if you are not thirsty – at least 1 cup every 20 minutes.
- Take Rest Breaks – Take enough time to recover from heat given the temperature, humidity, and conditions.
- Find Shade or a Cool Area – Take breaks in a designated shady or cool location.
- Dress for the Heat – Wear a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing if possible.
- Watch Out for Each Other – Monitor yourself and others for signs of heat illness.
- If Wearing a Face Covering – Change your face covering if it gets wet or soiled. Verbally check on others frequently.
Employers must ensure that workers have access to cool, clean water and encourage them to drink small amounts frequently, ideally one cup every 20 minutes. Workers should also be allowed to take breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area to cool down. Additionally, employers should incorporate acclimatization periods for new workers or those returning from extended absences to gradually adjust to the heat.
Employers are also required to develop and implement a comprehensive heat illness prevention plan. This plan should include:
- Introduction to the plan
- Company Policy
- Heat Hazard Assessment
- Heat-Illness Prevention Strategies
- Medical Emergencies
- Incident Investigation
- Changes to plan
Please remember some states have state specific requirements. Should your business need any assistance in creating a Heat illness prevention plan please contact our Risk and Safety team.
The Role of a PEO in Heat Illness Prevention
A PEO like Innoworks can play a crucial role in helping businesses establish and maintain heat illness prevention programs. PEOs offer a wide range of services, from HR management and compliance assistance to employee benefits administration and risk management. Here’s how a PEO can help your business with heat illness prevention:
Expertise in OSHA regulations: PEOs have extensive knowledge of OSHA regulations and can help businesses understand and comply with the rules related to heat illness. This ensures that your company is taking the necessary steps to protect its workers and avoid costly fines and penalties.
Customized heat illness prevention plans: PEOs can help businesses by providing recommendations on how to develop and implement a heat illness prevention plan tailored to their specific industry, workforce, and climate conditions. This includes creating a comprehensive heat illness policy, establishing emergency response procedures, and developing effective worker training programs.
Access to resources and training materials: PEOs have access to a wealth of resources and training materials that can help businesses educate their workers on heat illness prevention. This includes informative handouts, posters, and videos that can be used during training sessions or distributed throughout the workplace.
Ongoing support and guidance: Partnering with a PEO ensures that businesses have ongoing support and guidance in managing their heat illness prevention program. PEOs can provide regular updates on changes to OSHA regulations, offer advice on best practices, and help businesses address any heat-related issues that may arise.
Heat illness is a significant occupational hazard that can have severe consequences for both workers and businesses. By adhering to OSHA regulations and implementing a comprehensive heat illness prevention plan, employers can minimize the risk of heat-related illnesses and ensure the safety of their workforce.
Partnering with a PEO like Innoworks can be a valuable resource for businesses looking to establish and maintain an effective heat illness prevention program. With their expertise in OSHA regulations, customized prevention plans, access to resources and training materials, ongoing support, and enhanced employee benefits, PEOs can help businesses protect their workers and maintain a safe and healthy work environment.
Don’t let the heat take a toll on your workforce; invest in a PEO like Innoworks and ensure that your employees remain safe and productive, even in the hottest of conditions.