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As heat waves continue to blanket the nation and many places are experiencing record temperatures, worker safety becomes a pressing concern. Workers suffer an average of 3,500 heat-related injuries and illnesses each year and that number is likely to increase with hotter weather—18 of the past 19 summers were the hottest on record.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recognized this as a growing issue and has launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) with the goal of reducing or eliminating exposures to heat hazards. OSHA will be increasing inspections by 100% in each region to assess working conditions, and businesses must be prepared.
Employers must work proactively to mitigate heat-related illness and injury, not just to comply with OSHA and avoid litigation, but to keep employees healthy and safe.
Extreme heat-related illnesses and injuries impact indoor and outdoor workers. OSHA has identified 70 high-risk industries with significant exposure to heat and notable heat-related incidents on record. Industries include construction, farming, transportation, civil engineering, manufacturing, and more.
Companies that have received OSHA citations in the past or whose violations can be plainly seen by passersby are more likely to be targeted for an inspection.
To prepare for OSHA inspection and to avoid heat-related hazards, employers must take strategic measures. Recommended actions include:
Despite the increase in heat-related hazards, carriers are not yet raising workers compensation rates in response. However, during the underwriting process, insurers are looking more closely at workplace conditions and protocols to ensure that heat safety measures are in place. If a heat-related illness or injury occurs on a company’s watch, insurers will need assurances that changes have been made and that an incident will not happen again before renewing the policy.
Implementing proper mitigation policies and procedures can feel daunting, but many resources and organizations can help.
Temperatures will only continue to rise. Worker protection is critical in extreme heat. OSHA guidelines should be viewed as the bare minimum. Companies should take all steps possible and invest in employee safety. Not doing so could result in costly litigation, steep fines, or tragic fatalities.
Want to learn more?
Connect with the Risk Strategies Risk Management Services team at safety@risk‐strategies.com.