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Take Precautions to Stay Safe in the Heat

The heat wave of 2006 has the nation sweltering in temperatures climbing as high as 100 degrees. Such heat poses a health threat to everyone from coast to coast, but as conditions remain oppressive in the coming days, employers and workers should take necessary precautions.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), heat-induced occupational illnesses, injuries and reduced productivity can occur with excessive exposure to a hot work environment. Aside from causing potentially life-threatening conditions such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, hot weather and working conditions can contribute to accidents that occur as the result of sweating, slippery palms, fogged up safety glasses and dizziness. Severe burns also can occur as a direct result of accidental contact with hot surfaces and steam.

Keeping a watchful eye on signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke can make a difference in preventing a fatality, according to OSHA. The agency has devised a series of products for employers and employees to utilize when temperatures soar.

Working Outdoors is an OSHA fact sheet that offers advice on ways to protect workers against exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), precautions to take if working in extreme heat and how to protect against Lyme disease and the West Nile virus. The fact sheet also offers information links for teenagers working at summer jobs.

OSHA's Heat Stress Card lists tips and precautions to prevent heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment.

Protecting Yourself Against Harmful Sunlight is a pocket card that explains how to perform self-examinations to detect early stages of skin cancer. The card, available in English and Spanish, also describes common physical features of skin cancer that can be caused by exposure to the sun.

These publications and others related to outdoor job hazards can be downloaded from OSHA's web site on the publications page at More information about heat and sun hazards can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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