The summer heat is in full force and every year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat and/or humid conditions. The construction industry is the occupation that is the most affected by the summer heat accounting for more than 40% of heat-related worker deaths. However, workers in every field are vulnerable to heat related illness, injury, or death. In 2011, OSHA launched a Heat Illness Prevention campaign which educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. OSHA, through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances have informed millions of workers and employers on how to protect from the extreme heat on the job. OSHA’s safety message comes down to 3 key words: Water. Rest. Shade.
The reason the heat is so dangerous to workers is because when you’re working in a hot environment, the body must work harder than normal to get rid of the excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. This is mainly done through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating. If the fluids and salts that are lost are not adequately replaced it results in dehydration. If the body is unable to remove the excess heat, it will be forced to store it. If the body starts storing heat it will raise the body’s core temperature and the heart rate will increase. The worker will then begin to lose concentration, have difficulty focusing on the work, and may become irritable or sick. The next stage will often be fainting and even death if the person is does not cool down.
Dangers of Working in the Heat