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New resources for summer hazards: heat and insects

Take the stress out of heat

The dog days of summer can create health-threatening conditions for outdoor workers. Heat related exposure includes not only heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, fainting and heat stroke, but also injuries from falls, equipment operation and accidents that occur when a worker has sweaty palms or fogged safety glasses or becomes dizzy, disoriented, or fatigued as a result of dehydration.

While there are no national OSHA regulations and only a few states such as California and Washington have heat illness prevention standards, OSHA recently launched its second annual heat illness prevention campaign to raise awareness about the hot weather hazards facing outdoor workers. The website offers extensive educational materials. OSHA also has ramped up violations under its General Duty Clause. Here is a link to some of last year's heat related violations.

New to this year's campaign are a smartphone application and an employer guide to using the heat index.

The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and displays a risk level for outdoor workers. Then, with a simple click, it displays reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness.

OSHA cautions that workers performing strenuous activity, workers using heavy or non-breathable protective clothing, and workers who are new to an outdoor job need additional precautions beyond those warranted by heat index alone. When Cal/OSHA investigated 25 incidents of heat related illness, in almost 50% of the cases the worker involved was on their first day of work and in 80% of the cases the worker involved had only been on the job for four or fewer days. Acclimation to hot weather is a big factor as it can take up to two weeks for a person new to outdoor work to get used to the temperature and even more for those who are overweight or have other at risk factors.

Often the biggest challenge in preventing heat-related illness is making sure workers change their behavior and that policies are followed at the worksite. Having a "real-time" app can be a cool way to engage workers and reinforce safe practices.

Take the bite out of tick borne insects

While tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and Rock Mountain spotted fever, are found in all 50 states, Lyme disease is the most common with 30,000 to 40,000 confirmed and probable cases occurring in the United States each year. Of these 94% occur in the following 12 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Employers that have employees working outdoors in these states should pay special attention to the risks and provide a thorough safety program addressing Lyme disease. Educating your employees about the risks in the areas they work and the proper preventive measures is key to avoiding tick borne diseases.

In addition to training, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests the following:

The CDC Fact sheet is a helpful resource.