Occupational safety leaders urge protection of workers from heat exposure through prevention programs and products, including water, rest, shade and supplemental body cooling personal protective equipment (PPE).
St. Paul, Minn (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Despite being commonly underreported, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that—between 2011 and 2019—environmental heat cases still accounted for an average of 38 fatalities per year and 2,700 incidents resulting in missed workdays.
This, coupled with alarming upward trends in global temperature, has triggered an intensified effort among occupational safety leaders such as the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) members and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to urge protection of workers from heat exposure through prevention programs and products. These include water, rest, shade and supplemental body cooling personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Considering the past 7 years were far and away the hottest on record, OSHA’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking is a critical step in beginning to address this serious and growing workplace issue,” said Tom Votel, Ergodyne President & CEO and Board Chair of ISEA. ISEA is a recognized leader in the development of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and other globally accredited safety equipment standards, as well as a key stakeholder in occupational safety rule making.
In parallel with state-led regulations and broad-scale public service campaigns such as OSHA’s Water.Rest.Shade program, ISEA members including safety work gear manufacturer Ergodyne have long worked to fill the absence of a federal heat stress standard with grassroots efforts to draw awareness, develop prevention programs and provide portable work shelters, hydration solutions and cooling PPE such as evaporative cooling vests, hats and towels for curbing heat-related illnesses and fatalities.
Those initiatives continue in full as momentum for OSHA to implement a federal heat stress standard builds. Last fall, the agency announced their intent to start work on a federal standard in concert with enhanced enforcement efforts—including a National Emphasis Program (NEP) that leverages the agency’s General Duty Clause to prioritize heat-related inspections at indoor facilities and outdoor worksites.
According to a memorandum released by OSHA in September 2021 (Heat Initiative: Inspection Guidance), compliance officers will emphasize the availability of training to assist in recognition of heat stress symptoms (such as toolbox talks) as well as the importance of administrative controls like acclimatization, work/rest protocols and accessibility to water and shade. In addition, officers will be guided to make recommendations on appropriate PPE, including evaporative and phase change cooling gear and sun-blocking garments to help supplement programs when other controls are insufficient in reducing heat exposure to a safe level.
“Water and rest are pretty obvious heat stress prevention measures, but acclimatization and body cooling are equally important to protecting both new and experienced workers throughout the entire shift,” said Alsie Nelson, Ergodyne Product Director. “Whether they’re mid-task or on a break, wearable cooling PPE and portable shelters are easy and effective ways to help maintain safe body temperatures.”
“Ergodyne has an extensive offering of heat stress prevention and training programs, as well as decades of experience helping organizations implement their own programs,” continued Nelson. “With rising average temperatures putting more and more crews at risk, we remain dedicated to delivering the resources, training and solutions workers need to stay safe.”
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