OSHA issues heat wave warning to employees and employers June 2011

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Triple-digit temperatures on the South Plains, projected to continue through the weekend, have prompted federal regulators here in Lubbock to issue a safety message.

Posted on the KCBD website: Jun 17, 2011 1:37 AM

By Christie Post

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants all employees to know they have the right to safe working conditions. That includes drinking water often, resting in the shade, reporting heat symptoms early, and knowing what to do in an emergency.

Working inside out of the heat can be the best way to prevent heat related illness, but those outside of the cubicle are at risk for the most serious heat illness, heat stroke.

“It’s been pretty bad lately. There have been a few days we have started at 5:30 a.m. to just get off at noon,” said Southwest Greens employee, Gabe Guerrero.

Last year nationwide more than 1,790 people became seriously ill from heat and more than 30 died.

“The symptoms, headache or dizziness, fainting, weakness or wet skin, irritability or confusion,” said OSHA assistant area director, Elena Metcalf.

So how are those working directly in the sun beating the heat?

“We try and take a break about every 30 minutes, we drink a lot of water and we try and stay away from all of the sugar,” said Guerrero.

Kevin’s Car Cleanin’ owner also knows when it’s time for a break from the high temperatures.

“If you are sweating you’re doing good. It’s when you stop sweating you need to start worrying and start drinking more water,” said Kevin Henricks.

Gil Carter has worked outside doing maintenance at Hillcrest Country Club for 15 years.

“Try and find a tree to sit under and cool off for a few minutes. I’ve been doing this so long now that I’ve kind of got used to it where it’s not nearly as bad as it is for a lot of people,” said Carter.

If OSHA were to find employers not protecting their employees from heat stress, they could be issued a citation up to $7,000.

Whether someone is laying down artificial grass, watering a green or washing cars, they all are finding a way to stay cool in this heat wave.

“Today the water is blowing back at us so that’s pretty nice. It helps keep us cool also,” said Henricks.

Even though the temperatures might get unbearable, Girl Carter wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You can’t beat being on a golf course, especially when the suns going up or the sun is going down. It’s unbelievable how beautiful it is out here. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Carter.

OSHA wants Lubbock area employers to know how important it is to consider worker safety when it gets hot.

Risk Factors for Heat Illness

  • High temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, no breeze or wind
  • Low liquid intake; previous heat illnesses
  • Heavy physical labor
  • Waterproof clothing
  • No recent exposure to hot workplaces

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Headache, dizziness, or fainting
  • Weakness and wet skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Thirst, nausea, or vomiting

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • May be confused, unable to think clearly, pass out, collapse, or have seizures (fits)
  • May stop sweating

What to Do When a Worker is Ill from the Heat

  • Call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, call 911.
  • Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.
  • Move the worker to a cooler/shaded area.
  • Remove outer clothing.
  • Fan and mist the worker with water; apply ice (ice bags or ice towels).
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink.

If you have any questions or concerns, call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA or visit OSHA.gov

For more information on heat stress and related products click here