Thousands of construction workers fall ill due to excessive heat exposure on jobsites every summer. According to OSHA, in 2019 alone, 43 workers died and at least 2,410 experienced serious illness or injuries. This number is thought to be much higher as less serious heat-related injuries and illnesses are under-reported.
OSHA is planning to create a federal standard to prevent heat-related illnesses on jobsites. The workplace heat standard process is open to the public for comments and OSHA is gathering data on diverse topics including heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, heat stress thresholds and other strategies aimed at protecting workers during the summer months.
“Amid changing climate, the growing frequency and intensity of extreme heat events is increasing the dangers workers face, especially for workers of color who disproportionately work in essential jobs in tough conditions,” says Marty Walsh, labor secretary.
OSHA’s program will include an enforced initiative on heat hazards as well as a National Emphasis Program for heat inspections. The programs are designed to protect workers on days when the heat index is higher than 80°F.
On days that exceed 80°F, OSHA will increase its enforcement activities, but employees are encouraged to implement their own measures to protect crews. These measures include regular rests in shaded areas, water breaks and training that will allow crew members to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to help workers who are suffering from these symptoms.
California, Minnesota and Washington already have standards for heat illness prevention in place. You can see them here: