CDC report highlights need for heat acclimatization to prevent worker deaths
Agency recommends multi-faceted prevention programs to combat heat stress
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s review of 20 heat-related enforcement cases from 2012 to 2013. The key finding: CDC supports OSHA’s analysis suggesting that the primary risk factor for heat fatalities is the lack of acclimatization programs.
Of the 13 enforcement cases described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that involved worker fatalities, nine of the deaths occurred in the first three days of working on the job, and four of them occurred on the worker’s first day. In all 20 cases, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or absent, and no provision was made for acclimatizing new workers to heat.
Acclimatization is a critical part of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities, and workers should gradually build up workloads and exposure to heat by taking frequent breaks for water and rest in shade or air conditioning, OSHA says. OSHA’s national Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Workers raises awareness about the risks for heat-related illness or death and provides tools to help prevent them.
The agency recommends that employers have prevention programs that include oversight, hazard identification, a formal acclimatization program, modified work schedules as necessary, training, and emergency planning to prevent heat-related fatalities. OSHA has a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. For more information and resources in English and Spanish see www.osha.gov/heat.