On a hot July day in upstate New York, a young construction worker collapsed on a job site and later died from heat illness. Tim Barber was just 35 years old, and it was only his second day on the job. Western New York is known more for its winter snows than its summer temperatures, but that also means that new workers aren’t acclimated to sudden onsets of 90° degree weather with high humidity.
Tim’s story, as relayed by his father in a featured video, is one of the resources about heat illness prevention from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Each year, dozens of workers die and thousands become ill while working in hot or humid conditions. In upstate New York and elsewhere across the U.S., July is the hottest month of the year – and July 2021 was the hottest month ever on record.
“No employer wants to see someone get hurt, but too many take a reactive instead of a proactive approach to safety. Smart business leaders manage risks, and that includes the risk of heat illness on construction sites and elsewhere.” – Jim Testo, EHS Risk Management
The OSHA Heat Illness Prevention campaign is designed to educate employers and workers about the dangers of working in the heat. Along with heat illness general education, there are resources about an employer’s responsibility to keep workers safe and worker information about employee rights and first aid. There’s also related information from several other federal agencies.
For employers, it’s important to develop a heat illness prevention plan that includes the procedures, supplies, and equipment necessary to protect workers. Managers and workers need training about the signs and symptoms of heat illness, and employees – especially new hires – need to build a tolerance to the heat. Tragically, nearly 3 out of 4 heat-related fatalities happen during the first week of work.
EHS Risk Management can help you to build a heat illness prevention program. To learn more about how we support the construction industry, visit our Construction Services page or read our Managing Risk in the Construction Industry article.