Safety First News
Heat-Induced Worker Fatality Is Cautionary Tale for Employers
March 18, 2018
Heat-induced illnesses aren’t typically the first hazards considered by employers with outside workers in late September, particularly with wet bulb globe temperatures (WBGT) of 86.2 degrees Fahrenheit, but it was enough for a worker to die from heat stroke. With summer right around the corner, employers who do not have a Heat Stress Management Program should consider establishing one now.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cited Southeastern Subcontractors, Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida for allegedly failing to protect workers from extreme heat in late September of 2017.
According to OSHA’s citation, Southeastern Subcontractors workers were performing duties on a residential roof where ambient temperatures were high (heat index was 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and workers were in direct sunlight. Working in these alleged conditions were enough to exacerbate complications that eventually lead to heat stroke and death of the worker.
There is no specific heat-related illness prevention standard published by OSHA, but OSHA does publish various tools and training resources on its website, and the agency does issue citations related to heat-induced hazards at the workplace as we reported last year in an article last year, “Is A Heat Stress Program Required BY OSHA?”
Utilizing the General Duty Clause (OSH Act of 1970 Section 5(a)(1)), OSHA cites employers for exposing workers to environments that could lead to the development of serious heat-related illnesses such as, but not limited to, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
OSHA recommends employers who expose workers to hot environments to establish a Heat Stress Management Program. Such a program should include:
- Development and implementation of an effective heat-related illness prevention program, which establishes how the employer will determine if workers are exposed to a heat hazard based on environmental conditions, clothing, and workload. It should include policies/procedures for controlling heat hazards, worker acclimatization program, heat alert program, training employees on the hazards, signs and symptoms of heat stress, and medical monitoring program.
- Training for all workers regarding the health effects associated with heat stress, symptoms of heat-induced illness, and methods of preventing such illnesses.
- Establishment of a procedure for acclimatizing workers who are not accustomed to working in hot environments or those returning from extended absences from work.
- Implementation of work/rest regimens dependent on environmental conditions and an inclusion that allows workers to become acclimatized to extreme heat conditions.
- Rescheduling work during cooler periods of the day.
- Providing cool water and encouraging workers to drink 5 to 7 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes rather than relying on thirst.
- Establishment of a screening program to identify health conditions that could be aggravated by exposure to heat stress.
- Providing equipment such as cooling vests, cooling bandanas, or other equipment that may help prevent overheating.
- Providing a shaded area or air conditioned areas for breaks.
Southeastern Subcontractors, Inc. is permitted 15 business days from the receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to pay the penalty and comply with the citation’s directives, schedule an informal conference with OSHA’s Area Director, or contest the findings in front of the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.