Extreme Heat Wave Poses Serious Risks for Workers

heat waveDangerously high temperatures and heat indices are forecast for a wide swath of the U.S. later this week, particularly in the Midwest and Central states, putting anyone who works outside at particular risk for heat stress or heat illness. By Thursday, cities like Minneapolis, Des Moines, St. Louis and Little Rock are forecast to have heat indices approaching 110 degrees with more than a dozen states expected to have heat indices of 100 degrees or higher. The heat is expected to last at least until Saturday when it will spread to the East Coast as well.

For those working out in the sun, especially in areas where these extreme temperatures are uncommon, or in buildings without air conditioning, the risk is serious. In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heatstroke and related causes on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If workers don’t take water breaks or rest in the shade or air conditioning frequently enough, heat illnesses – ranging from heat rash or cramps to heat exhaustion or heatstroke – can result. Immediate medical attention is required for heatstroke as it can result in death.

To assist work crews in assessing potentially dangerous temperature situations, OSHA has developed a heat safety app (available for Android and iPhone), which allows users to calculate risk levels at a worksite and learn about the protection measures needed to prevent heat illnesses. The links below provide additional information and educational resources about symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke, tips to prevent heat-related illnesses and fatalities and what to do if someone becomes ill.

OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

OSHA Fact Sheet: Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat

CDC: Heat Stress

NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Heat Stress