By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

OSHA recently announced its Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers to remind employers and employees of the hazards of heat illness.

As OSHA states “thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses.”

With the announcement of the Campaign, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said that “heat-related illnesses can be fatal, and employers are responsible for keeping workers safe.” “Employers can take a few easy steps to save lives, including scheduling frequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing ample time to rest.”

OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, indicated that “over the past three years, lack of acclimatization was the cause in 74 percent of heat-related citations issued. Employers have a responsibility to provide workplaces that are safe from recognized hazards, including outdoor heat.”

OSHA’s purpose for the Campaign was to raise awareness and educate employers and employees about the dangers of working in hot weather. In addition, the Campaign website provided resources and guidance materials to employers in responding to hot weather hazards. OSHA identified industries particularly at risk for hot weather hazards as agriculture, construction, landscaping, and transportation.

Connecting into what OSHA touts as an important Emphasis Program, OSHA noted that “heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat (acclimatization), and it is especially dangerous for new and temporary workers.”

Employers that have employees that may become exposed to hot weather hazards should consider this OSHA announcement as a “wake-up call.” OSHA’s inspectors will likely be watching for employees put “at-risk,” and citations may be written for this hazard. Consider now your company’s potential exposure to this hazard, and whether measures may be taken now to minimize any potential liability.