Federal agencies Heat stress Construction

OSHA teleconference addresses working in the heat

worker drinking water

Photo: OSHA

Washington – On any given day, Republic Services sends about 15,000 trucks onto busy roads and residential streets for garbage pickup and recycling.

Waste collectors at the Phoenix-based organization work outside in all seasons. One of the more dangerous times of the year is summer, when the sun beats down and temperatures soar. To inform workers about the importance of staying safe in the heat, Republic Services launched a campaign called “101 Days of Summer” and participated in a heat safety stand-down with other members of the National Waste & Recycling Association.

“We want to make sure [our workers] are prepared and ready when they come to work,” Jim Olson, vice president of safety and environmental compliance for Republic Services, said during a June 27 teleconference with OSHA and NWRA leaders. “Our whole program is intended to keep our workers safe and to keep the general public safe.”

OSHA administrator David Michaels praised the efforts of NWRA, Republic Services and others who have committed to helping workers stay safe in the heat. OSHA received more than 200 cases of heat-related worker hospitalizations in 2015, and the agency is investigating several possible fatalities reported in 2016.

Every heat-related death can be prevented, Michaels said during the teleconference. Organizations can help their workers by using resources from OSHA’s Water. Rest. Shade. campaign and downloading the agency’s free heat app for iPhone and Android devices. The app helps employers and workers determine the heat index and has information about symptoms of heat illnesses.

Michaels asked employers and workers in all industries to share stories and recommendations about what they do to stay cool in the heat. Those interested may tweet OSHA @USDOL using the hashtag “#WaterRestShade.”

“We have seen fatalities in construction, in agriculture, and in any sort of outdoor work – and indoor work,” Michaels said. “It’s much more associated with the climate, but also acclimatization. When workers just start working in heat because they’re new on the job or there is a heat wave, they are at particular risk.”

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