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OSHA Leads Discussion on Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries

OSHA Leads Discussion on Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) teamed up with the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) and Republic Services to discuss the issues of heat-related illnesses and injuries in the waste and recycling industry during a media teleconference on Monday.

In an effort to boost awareness about the dangers of heat, OSHA created a water-rest-shade campaign that includes educational resources, tips on how to use the heat index, training and an online toolkit. The NWRA also launched its own “Water. Rest. Shade” campaign, which included a weeklong Safety Stand Down focused on this topic in May.

“Every heat-related death we investigated was preventable, in most cases by simply providing water, rest and shade,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels in a press release. “When temperatures soar, it’s vital that employers remember workers need time to develop a tolerance to the heat. In recent years, many of the heat-related fatalities we’ve seen occurred during the victim’s first three days on the job.”

Here are some takeaways from the call:

  • In 2015, OSHA received more than 200 reports of heat-related worker hospitalizations, and at least eight deaths were associated with heat exposure.
  • In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered with heat illnesses, and 18 workers died from heat-related illnesses.
  • OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool app allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, view the risk levels for outdoor workers and receive reminders about the protective measures to take to avoid heat-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Some important protective measures outside workers should take are: drink plenty of fluids, schedule rest breaks, plan for and know what to do in an emergency situation, adjust work operations, gradually build up the workload for new workers, incorporate heat illness education during training sessions, look out for heat illness and injury symptoms in coworkers, ensure on-truck coolers are filled with cold water, wear sun block for protection and opt for T-shirts, cooling bandanas and cooling vests if needed.
  • Companies in the industries of waste and recycling, construction, agriculture, postal delivery and more are participating in the 100 Days of Summer Safety campaign to keep workers safe when the temperatures rise.
  • “The culture of safety in the waste and recycling industry is very strong,” NWRA National Safety Director Anthony Hargis said during th call. “It’s a culture of caring. The employers care about their employees and provide them with these valuable tools to stay safe.”
  • “In most cases, the statistics from the Department of Labor and other sources on the OSHA website do not represent the number of heat-related issues because companies are typically only able to place their information into one category.”
  • “In the summer, there is an increase in trash volume and children aren’t in school,” Jim Olson, vice president, safety and environmental compliance, for Republic Services, said during th call. “Hydration is not only important for the safety of the workers, but it helps them stay focused on their work and their surroundings, which includes more children in the summer.”
  • “At Republic, we provide workers with T-shirts, sunscreen, water jugs and coolers, safety orientation and access to heat-related illness and injury videos so they are aware of the possible issues that can arise,” said Olson.
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