Every summer, thousands of Americans are hospitalized for heat-related illnesses. Many of these cases are employees who work outdoors where heat stress is potentially dangerous. Now that summer has begun, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding all employers and employees nationwide about its safety and health resources, especially those offering best practices for working in hot weather.
"Every outdoor jobsite faces hazards posed by the sun and heat," said OSHA's Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "We are encouraging employers and employees to take advantage of our published resources that offer sound advice to recognize and prevent heat stress and other heat-related illnesses."
The two most serious forms of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and the more severe heat stroke, which could be fatal. Symptoms include headaches, weakness, nausea and dizziness. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can help prevent a fatality.
Working Outdoors in Warm Climates, an OSHA fact sheet that offers advice on ways to protect employees against exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), highlights precautions to take if working in extreme heat and explains how to protect against Lyme disease and the West Nile Virus. The document also features information for teenagers working at summer jobs to learn more about safety and health.
OSHA's Heat Stress Quick Card lists tips on preventing many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated card is free to employers for distribution to their employees. It is a quick reference tool on heat-related illnesses, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment.
Protecting Yourself in the Sun is a pocket card that explains how to perform self-examinations that may 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 overexposure to the sun.
These free publications and others related to outdoor job hazards can be downloaded from OSHA's Web site on the publications page or can be ordered by calling OSHA's publications office at 202-693-1888. More information about sun and heat hazards can be found on OSHA's Web site, and on the Web sites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).