September 13, 2019
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for the worker’s safety at a national level. They set and enforce safety standards along with providing workplace training and education. Under OSHA, employers have a “General Duty” to their workers. In OSHA literature, the General Duty is published as follows: ‘Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards. This is commonly known as the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act”.
Excessive heat is considered a recognized hazard, as prolonged excessive heat exposure can lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and even heat stroke. Since 2015, delivery company UPS has had more than 100 employees hospitalized with heat-related injuries.
This is when OSHA stepped in and penalized UPS with the maximum fine of $13,260. Very few UPS trucks are air-conditioned, and many of their warehouses also lack air conditioning. This results in internal temperatures rising as high as 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Those working conditions are uncomfortable and unsafe, and OSHA has let UPS know that it is completely unacceptable.
If you work in a hot environment for prolonged periods of time, take the following steps to help ensure your own personal safety:
- Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing if possible
- Drink plenty of water (soda and other sugary drinks will not hydrate you effectively)
- Take breaks from the heat by finding shade or an air-conditioned area.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of heatstroke:
- An elevated body temperature/flushed skin
- Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, and even seizures
- Nausea & vomiting
- Rapid breathing and a racing heart
- Throbbing headaches