OSHA Reminds Employers to Follow Guidelines for Outdoor Workers in Summer Heat

The extreme heat in the Southeast this past week has resulted in at least two heat-related deaths of people working outside and at least two who were hospitalized.

“We’re currently investigating two fatalities that happened in Florida and also two incidents in which workers were hospitalized for heat-related illness,” said William Fulcher, area director for OSHA’s Atlanta Area East office. “And my office has just opened an inspection regarding a complaint about heat stress. We certainly are paying attention to this and we are responding quickly.”

Fulcher said OSHA enforces Section 581 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, which requires an employer to provide employees with a safe workplace free of hazards that might lead to serious injury or death.

However, he says it all boils down to a simple formula for outside workers and their supervisors when heat-related illness is a threat.

“There’s a simple means of addressing most of the heat hazards, and it starts with water, of course,” he said. “And we do recommend only water. Also, rest goes along with that. You can’t work eight hours in these temperatures. You have to be able to take a break. And we also suggest you seek shade to get out of the sun. So, the three things we talk about most is water, rest, and shade.”

OSHA has several pages on their Web site along with training videos that address how to keep outside workers safe from heat-related illnesses, as well as what to do if a worker becomes ill from working in the heat.

And we recently told you about a new OSHA app for smart phones that alerts workers when they’ve been out in the heat too long.

But Fulcher says if a worker believes his employer is not following OSHA guidelines for ensuring employee safety in the heat, they can file a report.

“We have an online e-complaint system that they can go to and remain anonymous. Or they can simply call my duty officers at my office. I have two staffers who serve as duty officers who take complaints from employees. They can simply call, tell us what the hazard is, whether it’s heat or anything else, and where it is. There’s no judgement. We simply take the complaint, look at it, and then determine if it warrants an investigation,” Fulcher said.

That number is 770-493-6644.

For more information on how to stay safe in the summer heat, go to the OSHA web site at osha.gov.