Fresno, California – Hot summer months are here nationwide and heat safety is a hot topic. Pardon the pun. Work-related deaths due to heat is a real number that is entirely avoidable and we here at Datatech wanted to remind you that like California, Oregon now has a “Heat Illness Prevention Program” rule in place.
A study conducted in 2015 by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 37 people died due to work-related environmental heat exposure and another 2,830 nonfatal work injuries and illnesses involved days away from work. With these statistics, the Oregon Farm Bureau is reminding agribusinesses that an Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Administration(OSHA) rule to protect workers from heat-related illnesses on the job is being enforced.
Corey Stengel, Chair of the Oregon Farm Bureau Health and Safety Committee recently had this warning, “OSHA now requires employers who have employees exposed to excessive and continuous heat to have a “Heat Illness Prevention Program” in place. This rule also applies if workers wear protective clothing or equipment that impacts their ability to naturally shed heat. Starting this year, when Oregon OSHA visits workplaces between June 15 and Oct. 1, inspectors will likely ask employers about their heat safety program.”
Stengel says the goal is to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths through awareness campaigns with workers and employers in high-risk
hot environments. “The primary focus is to educate and inform employers about indoor hot processes and/or outdoor workers, particularly in agriculture, construction, and forestry,” says Stengel.
So where are these dangerously hot environments according to Stengel? “Heat-related illnesses generally occur when body heat generated by physical work is aggravated by environmental heat and humidity. Indoor work sites where heat-related illnesses may occur include those with hot processes, such as seed and grain elevators, food processors, and canneries, to name just a few. Outdoor operations typically affected by hot weather include most crop-production agriculture, landscaping, firefighting, forest activities, construction, and demolition.”
“Another consideration is when the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. The use of non-porous (non-breathable) full-body suits, such as for pesticide applications, can cause heat-related illnesses among the workers during even relatively mild work activities without any additional sources of heat.”
Stengel says if your operation is visited by Oregon OSHA enforcement staff between June 15 and Oct. 1, the inspector will ask for documentation about your Heat Illness Prevention Program. Says Stengel, “Companies have been cited as high as $7,000 for the lack of a work-rest regimen, not ensuring employees’ access to fluids, and/or not providing heat stress training to employees—all elements of an effective program.”
The OFB Health & Safety Committee offers a program template online to help agribusinesses work up a plan, stay compliant and avoid fines.
Here’s the link to Oregon Farm Bureau’s heat program template.