WASHINGTON — Most people have experienced some symptoms of heat illness working in their yard on a hot day, or jogging — feelings of dizziness, headache or increased heartbeat — which they deal with by drinking water or spending time in the shade. The symptoms usually go away.
And that’s exactly what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ’s “Campaign to Prevent Heat Illnesses in Outdoor Workers,” is recommending outdoor workers do this summer: “Water. Rest. Shade.”
For outdoor workers in California who spend long hours working on building projects or in the fields without water, or without a shade break, heat illness can become life-threatening heat stroke. Symptoms include convulsions and fainting.
The deaths of three California workers in 2014 are being investigated as heat stroke fatalities by the U.S. Department of Labor.
And from 2008 through 2014, as seen on a U.S. Department of Labor map, the state had some of the highest numbers of heat related worker fatalities in the country.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA said the campaign’s aim since 2014 has been to cut heat- related worker fatalities, through educational and promotional materials about the dangers of extreme heat. OSHA also offers an app called the Heat Safety Tool, which offers a zip-code based level of heat illness risk.
Experts from fields where outdoor workers may be affected by heat illness say they have successfully incorporated OSHA’s advisory, “Water.Rest.Shade.”
In an OSHA teleconference Monday, Steve Korslin of Nucor Marion Inc. in Ohio, said he’s using OSHA’s educational resources which emphasize the importance of hydration even before workers go on the job. His company distributes a pocket guide, which includes tips on how to spot heat illness.
Jay Gearon manager of the Ferguson Construction Co., a firm in Sidney Ohio, said that his company is building small shelters to provide employees shade, even when they are working on roofs. His machinery operators, use the OSHA safety tool app on their phones.
In California, employers and workers can take advantage of a state specific version of the OSHA campaign, called 99 Calor, to avoid heat related work fatalities.
99 Calor’s bilingual, Spanish and English resources are similar to the larger, national campaign — and the app is the same. The important difference is the hotline from whence the campaign gets its name.
By calling 877-99-CALOR, employees who find themselves in crisis can get immediate medical attention.