OSHA offers free app to help calculate worksite heat index, display risks
CHARLESTON, WV– As temperatures and humidity rise in West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminds employers and workers not to ignore the dangers of working in hot weather – indoors and out – and remember, “Water. Rest. Shade.” can be the difference between ending the workday safely or suffering serious conditions or worse.
From 2011-2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 344 worker-related deaths in U.S. were due to environmental heat exposure. Workplace safety experts believe the actual number of heat-related fatalities may be underreported or misreported as another cause, such as heart attack.
To combat the dangers of heat exposure, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a national emphasis program in April 2022 to protect workers from heat illness and injuries.
“Our goal is to ensure workers are protected in hot indoor and outdoor environments,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia. “For the past several years, OSHA’s heat safety campaign has focused intently on raising awareness of the related dangers. A big part of our recent national emphasis program is reaching out to unions, employers, and other organizations in target industries to increase protection for workers most often exposed to heat illness and injuries.”
OSHA’s message is simple: Water. Rest. Shade. Employers should:
- Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes.
- Ensure workers take frequent rest breaks in the shade to cool down.
- Have an emergency plan ready to respond when a worker shows signs of heat-related illness.
- Train workers on the hazards of heat exposure, and how to prevent illness.
- Allow workers to build a tolerance for working in heat.
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is a free, downloadable app that calculates a worksite’s heat index and displays the associated risk levels. Users can receive precautionary recommendations specific to heat index risk levels to help protect employees from heat-related illness. The tool is available in English and Spanish.
OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure page explains the symptoms of heat illness, first aid measures to provide while waiting for help, engineering controls and work practices to reduce workers’ exposure to heat, and training.
Read a fact sheet on OSHA’s National Emphasis Program to protect workers across the nation from the increasing threat of heat related illness. Learn more about working in outdoor and indoor heat environments.