Today’s heat index in Michigan is set to hit 106 degrees. Are your outdoor workers prepared and protected? Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In an evaluation of 66 heat-related illness enforcement investigations from 2011-2016, 80% of heat-related fatalities occurred in outdoor work environments. But 61% of nonfatal heat-related illness cases occurred during or after work in an indoor work environment. Pregnant workers and workers of color are disproportionately exposed to hazardous levels of heat in essential jobs across these work settings.
While OSHA currently lacks a specific standard for hazardous heat conditions, in October 2021, it issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to begin the process of considering a heat-specific workplace rule.
MIOSHA also lacks any regulations governing workplace temperatures; however, MIOSHA can take action when dealing with heat stress in the workplace. Section 11 (a) of the MIOSHA Act 154 states that:
“An employer shall furnish to each employee, employment and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to the employee.”
If MIOSHA receives a report of a diagnosed employee illness or death resulting from heat exposure, an investigation may result in the employer being cited for a violation of Section 11(a). MIOSHA recommends that employers implement a variety of controls to prevent employee illness due to heat stress.
According to an OSHA Heat Stress Fact Sheet, key elements of a Heat Illness Prevention Program include:
- A Person Designated to Oversee the Heat Illness Prevention Program
- Hazard Identification
- Water. Rest. Shade Message
- Modified Work Schedules
- Monitoring for Signs and Symptoms
- Emergency Planning and Response
Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature regulating system fails and body temperature rises to critical levels (greater than 104°F). This is a medical emergency that may result in death. Dial 911 immediately if any of these symptoms are present:
- Loss of consciousness
- No longer sweating
The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- A body temperature greater than 100.4°F
Other less serious heat-related issues include heat cramps and a heat rash.
For more details on these heat-related illness and how to handle them, please refer to the OSHA Heat Stress Fact Sheet.
Employers should ensure their outdoor workers are protected from extreme heat. Michigan summers are short but can be brutal for outdoor workers.
Additional ASE Resources
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ASE members receive preferred pricing. Learn more at https://www.aseonline.org/HR-Consulting/Health-Safety-Consulting.