Landscaping, construction, and agriculture are all laborintensive activities that can raise the body temperature of workers in hot weather. This could lead to heat illness or even death, if precautions are not taken.
"Workers in Oregon aren't acclimated to working in this type of heat," said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. "Employers should provide drinking water, offer a shaded place for workers to take breaks, and watch for signs of trouble."
Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers to learn the signs of heat illness and focus on prevention. Exposure to heat can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, and even seizures or death.
From 2010 through 2014, 28 people received benefits through Oregon's workers' compensation system for heat-related illnesses.
"Heat illness can be deadly, but it's preventable," Wolf-McCormick said.
• Move them to a cool, shaded area. Do not leave them alone.
• Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
• Provide cool water to drink (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
• Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
• If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency help.
Certain medications, wearing personal protective equipment while on the job, and a past case of heat stress create a higher risk for heat illness.
Heat stroke is a more severe condition than heat exhaustion and can result in death. Immediately call for emergency help if you think the person is suffering from heat stroke.
• Perform the heaviest, most laborintensive work during the coolest part of the day.
• Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
• Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
• Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing (such as cotton).
• Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas – allow your body to cool down.
• Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
• Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
A few companies share their practices.
"In addition to clean, fresh drinking water on our sites, we provide our employees with cooling neck wraps. The wraps absorb cool liquid and stay cool. Employees are offered the neck wraps when they are hired or on our project sites as needed just like another piece of safety equipment."
- JOSH JOHNSON, SAFETY DIRECTOR, ADROIT CONSTRUCTION, ASHLAND
"On our larger projects, sometimes we will provide an ice machine or ice-coolers with bags of ice freely available to our subcontractors. It's really quite inexpensive, and it helps tremendously when they can cool down their water and sports drinks."
- DEMETRA STAR, SAFETY MANAGER, FORTIS CONSTRUCTION, PORTLAND
"We encourage employees to take longer and more frequent breaks in order to stay hydrated and supply Gatorade to all the crew members when the temperatures really get up there. We sometimes even call short days in order to keep our employees out of the worst heat of the day."
- DAN HERZING, SAFETY MANAGER, WILLAMETTE LANDSCAPE
Not sure when to call in an accident or incident? Oregon OSHA has a newly updated card that spells out exactly when and what type of work-related incidents must be reported.
The names of more than 50 workers who died on the job in 2014 were read during a somber ceremony at the Fallen Workers Memorial outside the Labor and Industries Building in Salem on April 28.
"Each of those names we read, there is a story of a life and dreams, family and friends and loved ones, and there is a story that was cut short by a tragedy in the workplace," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator.
The memorial service, coordinated by the Oregon AFL-CIO, also featured remarks from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who said no job is worth a life. One work-related fatality is one too many," said Brown. "Oregon can do better. We can, and we must."
Wood challenged employers to address hazards and to avoid the dangerous belief that we have done all we can do.
"I pledge to you that I will do more," he said. "I will fight harder. I will push harder to see workplaces in this state safer."
The annual Workers Memorial Day serves as a nationwide day of remembrance. It recognizes the thousands of U.S. workers who die each year on the job and the more than 1 million people in the U.S. who are injured each year at work. The observance is traditionally held on April 28 because Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act on that date in 1970. ▉
John Patterson, a student from South Salem High School, won $500 for his first-place video titled "Lorenzo's Blog," which promotes young worker safety and the importance of speaking up. The video, told from a first-person diary perspective, depicts Lorenzo's struggle with finding a job and ultimately being asked to do unsafe duties. South Salem High School also won a matching amount of prize money.
"My grandpa died from asbestos and he worked in a factory when he was really young," said Patterson. "I thought that making this video would help people who should have a voice and encourage young people to speak up."
The creators of the top videos were presented their awards during a special screening at the Northern Lights Theatre in Salem on May 2. The contest is designed to increase awareness about safety for young workers, with the theme of "Speak up. Work safe." Students were asked to create a video with a teen job safety and health message and were judged on creativity, production value, youth appeal, and the overall safety and health message.
All of the winning videos, as well as the other finalists, are available for viewing on YouTube.
The Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes]) organizes the contest. The sponsors are Oregon OSHA, SAIF Corporation, local Oregon chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at OHSU, the SHARP Alliance, the Central Oregon Safety & Health Association, the SafeBuild Alliance, Northern Lights Theatre Pub, Hoffman Construction, and Construction Safety Summit.
More details on the O[yes] website. ▉
Dozens of companies across Oregon paused from their regular activities to take a break for safety on Wednesday, May 13. The annual Safety Break for Oregon event was marked by businesses that hosted luncheons, employee recognition events, and safety training.
Portland-based R&H Construction participated by having workers stand-down for safety meetings at more than 14 active sites and addressed site-specific hazards. At one location, the company focused on fall protection with a demonstration on calculating fall distance.
"Safety needs to be at the heart of our work processes every day on every job, non-stop," said Art Bush, R&H corporate safety director.
"Working safely is a huge learning process, and something we can never truly finish. Safety Break gives us an opportunity to reinforce that value."
At Fred Shearer & Sons in Beaverton, Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood spoke to workers at a company barbecue about their commitment to working safely every day.
"We know how to prevent deaths. ... The way we can have greater success is by demanding better," said Wood.
Comcast in Tigard, Industrial Commercial Electric Company, and Thermo Fisher each won a $100 pizza luncheon prize as part of the SHARP Alliance sponsored contest.
Photos from these events available on the Safety Break for Oregon website. ▉
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