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New efforts to help protect outdoor workers in extreme heat

It has been an intensely hot summer—with temperatures rising above 100 degrees in parts of the country. For workers whose job involves being outdoors, the heat is posing serious safety concerns. For some, this weather has even proved fatal.

So, what is being done to protect workers in such dangerous conditions, and what is an employer’s responsibility in this effort?

Grassroots campaign in New Jersey

Last month, a New Jersey delivery man for the United Parcel Service (UPS) returned home from work presenting symptoms of heatstroke. His wife, a nurse, took him to the hospital. Alarmed by his condition, she responded by creating a petition, demanding that air conditioning be put in all UPS trucks. So far, UPS has not complied.

One roadblock in her effort is a lack of federal regulations regarding workplace safety in extreme heat conditions. Only three states in the country (Minnesota, California and Washington) have developed labor standards for such cases.

Proposed federal legislation

Fortunately, federal lawmakers have recognized that this gap in regulation creates a national safety risk for outdoor workers. Last month, the House of Representatives introduced legislation to help protect people working in excessive heat. The bill, if it passes, would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish heat-stress protections and workplace safety standards.

Tips to stay safe in extreme heat

Even without these standards, there are still steps you can take to reduce your risk of heatstroke on the job. If your job requires you to work outdoors, always follow the below safety tips in intense heat conditions:

  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear breathable clothing that helps keep you cool
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or someplace cool
  • Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day to stay hydrated—cold water, electrolyte beverages

Anytime you venture outdoors in extreme heat, you should take precautions. However, it is your employer’s responsibility to keep you and other workers safe on the job. This includes protection in severe weather conditions. No matter what your job is, you have the right to stay safe and healthy at work.

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