NEWSWATCH
HEAT ILLNESS

OSHA Emphasizes Importance of Acclimatization in Preventing Heat-Related Deaths

OSHA’s recent analysis of 20 heat-related enforcement cases from 2012–2013 (see http://bit.ly/oshaheatanalysis) suggests that employers’ failure to support acclimatization programs is a main risk factor for heat fatalities in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report describing OSHA’s review of these cases in the Aug. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Thirteen of the cases OSHA reviewed involved a worker fatality attributed to heat exposure, and seven involved two or more workers with symptoms of heat illness. Nine of the 13 cases involving worker deaths occurred during the workers’ first three days on the job, with four fatalities occurring on a worker’s first day. According to OSHA, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or absent in all of the cases reviewed, and no provisions were made for acclimatizing new workers to the heat.

OSHA recognizes acclimatization as a critical part of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities. The agency recommends that employers have prevention programs that include oversight, hazard identification, a formal acclimatization program, modified work schedules as necessary, training, monitoring for signs and symptoms, and emergency planning to prevent heat-related fatalities.
For more information, view the CDC report at http://bit.ly/cdcheatillness.