The purpose of NWRA’s Water. Rest. Shade. Safety Stand Down, which kicks off today, is to join forces with member companies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and partner organizations and industries to educate employers and workers about the dangers of working outside in hot weather by providing them with valuable resources to address heat illness prevention and recovery.
In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. 1,160 cases (56 percent) occurred in services providing industries. Former OSHA Administrator, Dr. David Michaels, noted that “over the past three years, lack of Acclimatization was the cause in 74 percent of heat-related citations issued. Employers have a responsibility to provide workplaces that are safe from recognized hazards, including outdoor heat.”
Last year, at Safety 2016, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) annual Professional Development Conference, Michaels, described to the audience of over 2,500 safety professionals the circumstances surrounding a heat illness fatality that involved a temporary worker during his first day on the job. That temporary worker was a waste collections industry employee. This catastrophic event emphasizes the point of our Safety Stand Down and the need for employers to develop an acclimatization process and utilize the heat illness prevention material and templates provided in our stand down’s “Toolbox.”
At ASSE, I joined Michaels, Jim Olson from Republic Services and Shawn Mandel from Waste Connections on a Heat Illness Prevention National webinar. During that webinar, I referred to route collection and route distribution drivers as “work athletes,” which resonated with Michaels and others on the call. I shared examples of the physical demands on these types of workers that use their entire body’s range of motion, physical strength and cardiovascular endurance during a typical 10-hour to 12-hour day, 60-hour to 70-hour work week, as regulated by USDOT/FMCSA. Performing these duties, five to six days per week and 50 to 52 weeks per year. In comparison, a professional American football player only works for approximately half of a game, each, once a week. In a game that only lasts an hour, broken up into four, 15-minute quarters, with a 12-minute halftime break. And they only work 16 regular season games, during a 17-week period in an entire year.
This year’s Stand Down also emphasizes the importance of “Recovery” to our
“Water.Rest.Shade.” message, because once the fatiguing and exhausting work is done the workers needs to have sufficient energy available to go home to their families and enjoy a health life outside the workplace and be able to take the time off to rest their minds and bodies.
Employees must be made aware of these risks. Employers must acclimatize workers, provide safe working conditions and assure that workers not only go home to their families as healthy as they came to work.
Please join NWRA and our partners this week from today through Friday, April 28, 2017 in creating a safer, smarter and stronger waste & recycling industry. Heat illnesses deaths are preventable.
Details and free registration opportunities are available at here.
Anthony “Tony” Hargis, CTP, AHP is NWRA’s National Safety Director.