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OSHA’s Water. Rest. Shade. Campaign Heats up this Summer

By Sally Murdoch

Construction job site sign for heat stress

Working in the extreme heat can be downright dangerous, with thousands of Americans becoming sick, and over 100 deaths occurring in 2016 due to preventable heat-related illnesses. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) records, high heat was the leading cause of weather-related deaths between 1987 and 2016. Coming in a distant second place over the 30-year period were flood-related deaths, followed by tornados.

OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign was launched in 2011 to educate employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Three key words embody OSHA’s safety message: Water. Rest. Shade.

The campaign site explains the signs of heat-related illness and how acting quickly may prevent more serious medical conditions, and may even save lives. Employers are encouraged to download a heat stress “quick card” via PDF which explains how they can protect workers from extreme heat conditions. The site specifies that:

  • Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. Call 911 if a coworker shows signs of heat stroke.
  • Heat Exhaustion is also a serious illness. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating. Heat fatigue and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of too much heat exposure.

Further, OSHA recommends tips on its site, including the following:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty and rest in the shade
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers
  • Acclimate on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance. Not being used to the heat is a big problem. Many of the people who died from heat stress were either new to working in the heat or returning from a break. If a worker has not worked in hot weather for a week or more, their body needs time to adjust

Heat Safety Ideas: What U.S. Companies are Doing to Beat the Heat

Safety First sign: Water. Rest. Shade.

Sometimes inspiration comes from examples of what companies are doing successfully, and OSHA has assembled exemplary instances of companies protecting workers from heat stress. If your company has effective tips to share, you can also submit them by emailing them to Three working examples of employers beating the heat include:

Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries in Springfield, Illinois has implemented a buddy system so that workers can watch out for each other, and quickly report symptoms of heat illness to their supervisor. By company policy, new employees are to be acclimated to the heat by getting frequent breaks during their first two weeks on the job and during heat waves. Workers are also equipped with cooling caps and bandanas, and may work earlier shifts. Additional breaks, water, and hydrating sports drinks are provided on days when temperatures are expected to soar.

Workers at aviation maintenance company Valair Aviation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, perform work activities in aircraft hangars that can exceed 95 degrees. Large fans, ice machines, and filtered water dispensers are placed around the hangars, and jobs can rotate to cooler locations within the hangars. Workers are trained on the signs of dehydration, heat cramps, and heat stroke, with nearly all of the workers certified in first aid, CPR, and defibrillator use. If heat illness does occur, they will know how to handle the situation until EMS arrives.

Keeping workers cool through fine misting water spray throughout the day is key at Ballard Marine Construction of Washougal, Washington. The marine contractor serves global clients in the nuclear, hydroelectric, salvage, pipeline, and submarine cable industries. To combat the heat, the company ensures set-up of portable shade canopies with misting hoses woven throughout the frames continually spraying workers, and the company has also installed misters on its barges and pairs them with misting fans.

Graphic Products Can Help Employers Keep the Heat Down

Signs and labels serve as great reminders, and customization results in more effective communication, especially in multilingual formats so everyone can understand heat dangers. Take the first step toward keeping workers cool on the job by developing strong custom visual communication with DuraLabel industrial label and sign printers. Our printers accommodate various supplies, sizes, and types of signs, from the portable DuraLabel Toro which can follow you to almost any job site, to our eco-friendly large format poster printer, the Echo.

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