The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that OSHA create a heat standard three times—in 1972, 1986 and 2016. Even though OSHA has supported NIOSH’s framework for the standard and created heat exposure guidelines, the agency can only examine heat-specific hazards under its general duty clause for employers to provide a generally safe work environment.
All businesses need to take care to protect their workforces from dangerously high temperatures. Here are some strategies you can use to protect your employees from the heat:
• Increase ventilation at your workplace by using air conditioning, setting up cooling fans or installing insulation around hot surfaces.
• Encourage employees to download the OSHA-NIOSH heat safety tool on their iOS or Android smartphone.
• Train employees on how to recognize the early signs of heat-related illnesses, such as red skin, nausea, confusion, heavy sweating, cramps and dizziness.
• Schedule physical work during times when the temperature is lower, such as the early morning or late afternoon.
• Make sure that your employees have access to water in their work areas, and encourage them to take small drinks every 15 minutes—even if they aren’t thirsty.
• Let your employees take more frequent breaks as the temperature rises.
• Keep in mind that anyone who hasn’t been exposed to excessive heat for a long period of time may need to allow extra time for their body to reacclimatize.