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OSHA and NIOSH raise awareness of heat stress

For the past several years, OSHA has been striving to raise awareness about the safety risks associated with hot working conditions. While the organization has no formal regulations on heat stress, the state of California regulates heat stress for outdoor workers. There are challenges, however, such as the need for constant updating as more research is conducted on how heat affects the body.

For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that it's not clear how climate change affects the degree of heat exposure to workers. NIOSH released a 2016 revision of a document called Occupational Exposure to Heat and Hot Environments, which has taken into account the results of studies on caffeine use, physiological monitoring and workers' use of personal protective equipment.

Exposure to extremely hot working conditions can lead to heat stroke, rashes, cramps and even death. While contact with hot surfaces can lead to burns, general heat and humidity could also increase the risk for slips, trips and falls.

OSHA and NIOSH have jointly compiled an infosheet that gives employers advice on preventing heat-related injuries. Besides providing basic heat illness training, they should ensure that employees eat and drink regularly (excessive water could be harmful), set up a buddy system when possible and schedule frequent rest periods.

Those who are injured in unsafe working conditions may be wondering if they should file for workers' compensation or sue the employer. Choosing the former will waive one's right to engage in the latter, but it can cover medical expenses, a percentage of the lost wages and even short- or long-term disability leave. A victim can reach out to a workers' comp attorney for more information.

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