By John E. Hall
With much of the country in line for more high temperatures as summer winds down, employers should be mindful of employees’ exposure to heat hazards on the job. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no heat standard, the agency has become increasingly willing to cite employers for employees’ heat exposure under Section 5(A)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), commonly known as the General Duty Clause.
Unfortunately, many citations occur after employees have suffered fatal or life-threatening exposure to heat hazards. Examples of such cases include the following:
- In one case, coworkers observed an employee of a planing mill walking and acting in a strange manner. He lost consciousness, and emergency help was summoned. Resuscitative measures were taken, and the employee was transferred to a medical center, where he died.
- A second case involved a masonry laborer working a construction job when the temperature exceeded 91ºF without any protective measures being taken by the employer.
- An employee working in a sawmill was pulling cut lumber from a green chain when he became dizzy and started to stagger. His supervisor ordered him to take a break, but upon returning to work, the employee began to stagger again and fainted. He was rushed to the hospital, where he arrived unconscious with a temperature of 108ºF. Upon being transported to a major hospital, he died without regaining consciousness.
- In another case, a 31-year-old construction worker who had been leveling gravel and installing forms for a swimming pool in extreme heat had to be air-lifted to a trauma center. He was later pronounced dead.