Water, Rest and Shade: OSHA to Educate Workers, Employers about Heat-Related Illnesses

Three ingredients can help save employees working in hot environments from suffering potentially life-threatening heat-related illness: water, rest and shade. OSHA plans to get that message out in a new heat illness education campaign.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that OSHA is launching this national outreach initiative to educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in the heat, as well as steps they can take to prevent heat-related illnesses.

“If you’re working outdoors, you’re at risk for heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death,” said Solis. “But heat illness can be prevented. This Labor Department campaign will reach across the country with a very simple message – water, rest and shade.”

Heat can be a hazard for workers in jobs ranging from agriculture and landscaping to construction, road repair, airport baggage handling and even car sales.

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Each year, thousands of outdoor workers experience heat illness, which often manifests as heat exhaustion. If not quickly addressed, heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, which killed more than 30 workers last year.

“As we move into the summer months, it is very important for workers and employers to take the steps necessary to stay safe in extreme heat,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “Drinking water often, taking breaks and limiting time in the heat are simple, effective ways to prevent heat illness.”

OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish; a curriculum to be used for workplace training; and a Web page providing heat illness information, resources, preventative strategies and actions to take during an emergency.

Federal OSHA has worked closely with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adapt materials from that state’s outreach campaign on heat illness for use in this national effort. In addition, OSHA is now partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on weather service alerts that will incorporate worker safety precautions when heat alerts are issued across the nation.

Finally, OSHA will foster relationships with other state and local partners, employers, trade organizations, unions, community groups, educational institutions and health care professionals to disseminate training materials and to educate workers and employers on preventing heat-related illnesses.

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