OSHA Heat Report: Acclimatization Necessary To Prevent Worker Deaths
Posted by Heidi Schwartz
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s review of 20 heat-related enforcement cases from 2012 to 2013. OSHA’s analysis, described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, suggests that the primary risk factor for heat fatalities is the lack of acclimatization programs.
Of the 13 enforcement cases that involved worker fatalities, nine of the deaths occurred in the first three days of working on the job, four of them occurring on the worker’s first day. In all 20 cases, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for acclimatizing new workers to the heat. Acclimatization is a critical part of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities, and workers should gradually build up workloads and exposure to heat by taking frequent breaks for water and rest in shade or air conditioning.
OSHA’s national Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Workers, now in its fourth year, raises awareness among workers and employers about the risks for heat-related illness or death and provides tools to help prevent them. The agency’s review found that the core elements of its campaign, “Water – Rest – Shade,” remain critical components of a comprehensive heat illness prevention program that can help save workers’ lives. It is also recommended that employers have prevention programs that include oversight, hazard identification, a formal acclimatization program, modified work schedules as necessary, training, monitoring for signs and symptoms and emergency planning to prevent heat-related fatalities.
OSHA has a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level.
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