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Preventing heat-related work illness

As temperatures rise across Oklahoma, employees who work outside are more at risk of getting a heat-related illness while on the job. As Occupational Health & Safety reports, these illnesses can result in hospitalization or even death for those affected. In 2013 there were 16,320 cases of heat illness that kept employees from missing work, and 20 incidences of heat illness mandated federal citation between 2012 and 2013.

Due to the serious stress heat can put on the human body, employers are required to protect their employees from extreme temperatures. Although there is not a federal limit to how high the temperature can be while still running a worksite, OSHA regulations do require employers to have a safe work environment for their employees. Maintaining safety in extreme heat is part and parcel of that requirement. As EHS Today explains, taking extra precautions for workers in heat over 85 degrees can keep people safe, and when humidity pushes the heat index even higher, which prevent sweat from cooling the skin, this is even more important. For those directly in the sun, the heat index plus 15 degrees is likely what workers are actually feeling.

Employers should provide clean and cool drinking water for employees in hotter temps. Mandatory breaks in the shade and/or air conditioning should be provided regularly. If an employee suffers from a heat illness, getting him or her to a shady and cool place to lie down with legs elevated. Provide cool water, fans and cold compresses to try to lower the employee's body temperature. Call 911 for additional help, if needed. Training programs to help employees understand the signs of heat illness in both themselves and coworkers could save lives.


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