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Media Advisory--OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. Michaels on Protecting Workers From Dangers of Soaring

On June 27th, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. Michaels lead a media teleconference on protecting workers from dangers of soaring temperatures and extreme heat.

In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable.

In 2015, OSHA received more than 200 reports of heat-related hospitalizations. Dr. Michaels stated that every single case relating to heat illness/exhaustion was preventable in most cases by simply providing water, rest and shade.

Listeners heard from several leaders making efforts to provide employees with resources to stay cool and hydrated. Amongst these resources, some highlighted ideas were: providing employees with sufficient breaks, coolie towels and bandanas, hydrating popsicles, water coolers, variations for refreshing beverages (powerade), fresh fruit in break areas, sunscreen, t-shirts--long sleeve where added protection is beneficial, etc.

NWRA National Safety Director Anthony Hargis stated professional athletes would struggle to do what waste management employees are doing in their full day-to-day shifts, even in a 2 hour game period. “In the summer, there is an increase in trash volume and children aren’t in school,” Jim Olson, vice president for Republic Services, said. “Hydration is not only important for the safety of the workers, but it helps them stay focused on their work and their surroundings, which includes more children in the summer.”

During the call, it was also mentioned that strains and sprains can be overlooked and not connected with heat illness. Hydration is important to keep workers alert, as well as to prevent sprains and strains.

Michaels also mentioned OSHA has a Heat Safety Tool Smartphone App, which they recently updated. It is available for iOS and Android, and provides information in English and Spanish. "The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Then, with a simple "click," you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness-reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness."

Information shared from the teleconference, as well as OSHA's Heat Illness webpage.

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