Voice of Business: OSHA ‘hot’ over heat stress

With summer here, heat stress issues can rear their ugly head – not only on outdoor worksites but also in production facilities. Don’t be caught ill-prepared for an incident and a subsequent visit by OSHA – establish your heat stress program today. Simply telling your employees that it is a hot day and they should take breaks when they need to and drink as much water as necessary will not meet OSHA’s expectations and could very easily result in a citation.

The risk of heat stress depends upon many factors related to the individual employee and this makes the challenge of making a safe workplace for all even more challenging. Those risk factors include the employee’s physical condition, the temperature and humidity, clothing worn, the pace of work and how strenuous it may be, exposure to sun and environmental conditions such as air movement.

  • Let employees get used to hot working conditions by using a staggered approach over several days, such as beginning work with 50% of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment and then generally increase it over five days
  • Make employees aware that certain medications, such as Diuretics, anti-hypertensives (blood pressure), anti-cholinergics (pulmonary disease – COPD), and alcohol abuse, can exacerbate problems.

OSHA is also inclined to cite an employer if prompt remedial action is not taken when an employee falls victim to heat stress. Establish specific procedures for heat-related emergencies and provisions for First Aid when symptoms appear. Remember, employees may resist First Aid because of the confusion caused by their heat stress. So, training on the signs and symptoms is also encouraged.

Just recently, I made oral argument before the OSHA Review Commission in Washington, D.C. regarding a heat stress fatality. Assisting me in presenting my case was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Roofing Contractors Association, and the U.S. Postal Service, among others. This ruling will have great significance for employers. Watch for further information when the decision is announced.

Article submitted by: Bob Dunlevey, Taft/

The ‘Voice of Business’ article series consists of chamber member submitted articles, providing insight and information to the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s membership base. For more information regarding ‘Voice of Business’ series, contact the chamber at info@dacc.org.