New Federal Campaign Aimed at Eliminating Heat-Related Illnesses on the Job

The mercury is starting to rise, and, as a result, the U.S. Department of Labor is kicking things into high gear.

The Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just kicked off a summer campaign designed to educate companies and their employees about the dangers of working outside during the hot summer months.  Officials believe this campaign will save lives.

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

This is the second year that the Department of Labor has raised awareness about working out in the heat, and for them, there is no higher priority.  That’s because thousands of workers suffer from serious heat-related illnesses every year.  On average, more than 30 workers die from heat stroke each year.

Part of the campaign is designed to teach employers and employees about the signs of dangerous heat-related illnesses.

“It is essential for workers and employers to take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat, and become aware of symptoms of heat exhaustion before they get worse,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

If you’re exposed to too much heat, your body temperature can get dangerously high.  When that happens, normal sweating isn’t enough to cool you off.  From there, you might notice a rash or some cramps — a sign of heat exhaustion.  Unfortunately, heat exhaustion can quickly turn into life-threatening heat stroke if a few simple prevention steps aren’t taken.

Making the problem worse?  Lots of industries have to deal with outdoor working conditions — making the threat widespread.

“Agriculture workers; building, road and other construction workers; utility workers; baggage handlers; roofers; landscapers; and others who work outside are all at risk,” said Michaels.  “Drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas are incredibly important in the hot summer months.”

In order to make sure everyone gets the message, OSHA has created a number of heat illness educational materials, in both English and Spanish.  They’ve also come up with documents that can be used in workplace training sessions.  There’s also a special website that can teach you how to spot a heat-related illness, how to prevent it, and what to do during an emergency.

You can even learn more on the go!  OSHA just released an app for mobile devices that’s designed to monitor the heat index at your work site.  Once the heat index reaches a dangerous level, the app will let you know.

Even if you don’t have a smartphone, it’s still easy to find out what you should do when the temperatures in your area are dangerously high.  That’s because OSHA has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to incorporate worker safety precautions in their heat alerts.

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