The sun and warm weather of summer can also bring special hazards for those working outdoors. To help employers and workers stay safe throughout the summer months, OSHA is offering tips, publications and links to other resources that can help prevent many heat-related deaths, illnesses and injuries.
"Summer is a time to be enjoyed, but it's also a season that can present unique hazards to those who work outdoors or in very hot environments," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Our job is to help educate employers and workers learn how to reduce heat-related illnesses and fatalities. Simple precautions can often save lives."
The combination of heat, humidity and physical labor can lead to fatalities. The two most serious forms of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can make a difference in preventing a fatality.
Working Outdoors is a new OSHA fact sheet that offers advice on ways to protect against exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), precautions to take if working in extreme heat, and how to protect against Lyme Disease and the West Nile Virus. The fact sheet also offers links for teenagers working at summer jobs.
The fact sheet offers these tips for workers who must be in the sun:
- Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing you can't see through.
- Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays.
- Wear a hat. A wide-brim hat, not a baseball cap, works best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
- Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses don't have to be expensive, OSHA counsels, but they should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
- Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
OSHA's Heat Stress Card lists tips and precautions to prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment.
Protecting Yourself Against Harmful Sunlight is a pocket card that explains how to perform self-examinations to detect early stages of skin cancer. The card, available in English and Spanish, also describes common physical features of skin cancer that can be caused by exposure to the sun.
These OSHA publications can be downloaded from OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov or obtained from the OSHA publications office, Rm. N3101, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.