Texas Heat Injuries are Serious: Employers Must Take Precautions
It is summer in Texas, which means intense heat and temperatures routinely exceeding 100 degrees in many areas. For those who work outdoors, the heat can actually lead to serious illness, or even death, if proper precautions aren’t taken. And make no mistake; if a worker gets sick or dies on the job, employers are responsible, if they have not taken proper precautions.
There are no specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards regarding heat stress, but the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to “provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.” Since extreme heat is a known potential health hazard, all employers have a duty to keep their workers safe.
OSHA conducts a national Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, which makes a number of resources available to employers and workers alike. For example, in partnership with the National Weather Service, they offer Excessive Heat Watch, Warning, and Advisory Products designed to advise on temperature and humidity, and offering specific solutions to specific heat concerns.
Under normal heat conditions, the body will normally cool itself by sweating. But when heat and/or humidity are extreme, sweating usually isn’t sufficient, and if proper precautions are not taken, body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Heat illnesses can range from mild heat rashes and cramps to heat exhaustion and on the extreme end, heat stroke which requires immediate medical attention, and can result in death.
OSHA recommends the following steps be taken to prevent heat illness at worksites that have to operate in extreme heat:
- Create and maintain an emergency heat illness prevention plan for each and every worksite, and make sure workers and supervisors at the site are properly trained to notice and react properly to heat illness signs and symptoms.
- Give work crews time to acclimatize to hot and humid conditions before expecting them to work at a high level. As new workers are brought in, give them additional time to adjust to the heat, as well.
- Workers should always have access to plenty of cool, fresh water, and be encouraged to drink as much as they need as often as they need it.
- An easily accessible shaded area should be provided for workers, and they should be encouraged to take frequent rest breaks.
- If at all possible, adjust work schedules so that workers can avoid the hottest part of the day.
If you or a loved one have become ill or have died, and you believe exposure to excessive heat was a factor, contact the Texas Workplace Injury Attorneys at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible. Employers should pay attention to work conditions and take precautions to make sure that workers are not unnecessarily exposed to dangers such as heat exhaustion.