The Tech Box
Heat Waves Turn up the Temperature on Occupational Heat Exposure
Dangerously hot conditions threaten residents in cities across the U.S. Summer is beginning with a heat wave. The temperature outlook for July offers no hope for the end of above-average heat. That makes occupational heat exposure a timely topic for this month’s Tech Box.
Sweltering weather puts many workers at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries. Under Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat.
Heat-related illnesses range from rashes and fatigue to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Your workers may experience muscle spasms, heat cramps, or confusion, so training them on prevention and monitoring signs of heat-related illness is essential.
On April 13, 2022, OSHA unveiled a
National Emphasis Program
(NEP) of outreach, inspection, and enforcement for indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards. The NEP expands on the agency’s ongoing heat-related illness prevention initiative. It is intended to encourage early interventions by employers to prevent illnesses and deaths among workers during high heat conditions.
on protecting workers from the effects of heat has excellent information on measures you can take to prevent worker illnesses and death caused by heat stress.
One of the best places to start is by creating or reviewing your heat illness prevention plan. For a successful strategy, it is essential to consider the following elements:
Training is also a meaningful way to protect team members from heat-related illnesses. Here are a few things to include when creating a training program:
An excellent resource for heat-related monitoring is a Heat Safety Tool smartphone app for outdoor workers developed by OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Using the app, employers can plan outdoor work activities based on the temperature and heat index during different times of the day.
Physiologic monitoring measures a worker’s ability to tolerate heat. Some signs of heat distress are:
Providing ways and opportunities for employees to track these changes can be preventive, especially for those with pre-existing risk factors like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. These conditions can make employees more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
Be aware of workers doing maintenance or construction - even light construction at your facilities. And watch for parts of the workplace that may gain or hold more heat than others.
Make sure you have enough fans on hand for all parts of your plant. Providing cold water in coolers, popsicles, or other frozen treats is a good way of helping your team beat the heat. If possible, provide cool areas while on breaks and possibly more time to relax.
Open communication and a good plan to deal with the heat will help protect your team. Having a plan and putting the right people in charge of oversight will give your team healthier outcomes during hot summer days.
If you need more help identifying ways to protect your workers from heat-related stressors, you can contact OSHA and set up an onsite
Chase Kammerer is the Technical Services Manager at Fibre Box Association (FBA). If you have technical questions about the corrugated industry, you can reach him directly at