May 01, 2023
Use OSHA’s NEP to Keep Workers from Overheating
Discussions at the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) annual meeting in Miami Beach in February indicated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is ramping up inspections of job sites for heat-related infractions in an effort to protect workers via enforcement. In observance of National Heatstroke Prevention Day, May 1, let’s look at OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP)—Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards, which went into effect April 8, 2022.
The NEP is basically in place to identify and eliminate (or reduce) worker exposures to occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries in general industry, construction, maritime and agriculture. See the related article below for a list of tips OSHA recommends to comply with its program, including giving workers 7-14 staggered days to “ramp up” to working in higher temperature environments. In the asphalt paving industry, depending on your location/region, we have a limited number of days in which to accomplish all the projects for the season, making the task of acclimatizing new and returning workers difficult, yet not insurmountable.
Also talk to workers about factors that might affect their tolerance of higher temperature environments. For example, certain medications—like amphetamines for ADHD, diuretics, blood pressure meds, anticholinergics and antihistamines—can increase the worker’s risk of heat stress. (Illegal drug and alcohol use is especially dangerous in hot work environments.)
Employers aren’t allowed to ask about workers’ health conditions—unless it’s suspected to limit their ability to perform job duties—but should make it known that some conditions can increase the risk of heat-related illness. It’s not against the law to let a group of workers know that pregnancy, fever, gastrointestinal illness, heart disease and obesity are problematic when temperatures soar. Make sure workers know they should double-check with their doctor—or pharmacist—if they have questions about their heat-related illness risk level.
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