With another heat wave in the forecast, federal officials are reminding Iowa employers to take care of workers who may be at risk from too much sun. Jeff Funke director of the regional OSHA office in Omaha, says taking simple precautions like water breaks and shade could save a life.
Funke says, “We are looking at this as a recognized hazard and the employer has the obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees.” Most heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable and Funke says employers need to understand the warning signs and the impact of heat exhaustion.
“Anyone that works outside has the greatest risk because they are working where there’s no air conditioning, the humidity is not controlled,” Funke says. “Oftentimes, they are exerting themselves and creating more heat.” It’s not just workers outdoors who are facing a health risk from the extreme heat, but those working certain indoor jobs as well.
Funke says the body needs to get used to working in hotter temperatures. “Let the worker acclimate to the work,” he says. “If you have someone new that comes to work, they need to toughen up for the heat. They need to be able to maybe work a partial shift instead of a full eight hours.”
Funke says employers are required to provide drinking water to crews working outside, but they should also hold training sessions on avoiding heat-related illnesses.