Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

HEAT ILLNESS CAN BE DEADLY. Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.
  • Who is affected?
  • What is heat illness?
  • How can heat illness be prevented?
This website is part of OSHA's nationwide outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. The educational resources page gives workers and employers information about heat illnesses and how to prevent them. There are also training tools for employers to use and posters to display at their worksites. Many of the new resources target vulnerable workers with limited English proficiency. OSHA will continue to add information and tools to this page throughout the summer.
OSHA is also partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather service alerts. NOAA's Heat Watch page now includes worker safety precautions when extreme heat alerts are issued.
We invite you to join in this effort by helping to reach workers and employers in your community with the resources you will find on this site.

Who is affected? Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.
What is heat illness? The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
How can heat illness be prevented? Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade. Drinking water often, taking breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Gradually build up to heavy work in hot conditions. This helps you build tolerance to the heat - or become acclimated. Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work. Also, it's important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do - acting quickly can save lives!

New Hazard Communication Requirements: Workers must be trained by Dec. 1, 2013

OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard has been revised to align it with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. This update to the Hazard Communication Standard provides a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Chemical manufacturers and importers are now required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided. In addition, Safety Data Sheets will now have a specified 16-section format.
By December 1, 2013, all employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must conduct new training for workers on the new label elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.
National Safety Compliance has prepared a number of materials to assist employers in complying with the new updates. The Hazard Communication Web page explains the changes and contains a number of materials including: a GHS/Hazcom In-Depth Training Kit, safety training booklets, binders and accessories for Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Interpretation of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard for Combustible Dust

This is in response to your inquiry on behalf of the American Chemistry Council concerning how OSHA's March 26, 2012, revisions to its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) apply to combustible dust. Below I summarize each of your questions and provide our response to it.
  1. Hazard Statement. Under HCS 2012, chemicals that have been classified as combustible dusts must include the following hazard statement on their labels and safety data sheets (SDSs): "May form combustible dust concentrations in air." You ask whether, for chemicals that pose a combustible dust hazard when processed but not in the current shipped form, the responsible party1 may include additional language with the hazard statement. You propose two alternatives (indicated by italics):

    1. If converted to small particles during further processing, handling, or by other means, may form combustible dust concentrations in air.
    2. If small particles are generated during further processing, handling or by other means, may form combustible dust concentrations in air.
  2. OSHA RESPONSE: Paragraph C.3.1 of Appendix C to HCS 2012 states that the responsible party may provide additional information on a label "when it provides further detail and does not contradict or cast doubt on the validity of the standardized hazard information." OSHA views either of the alternatives you propose as falling within C.3.1 because they provide additional detail and do not contradict or cast doubt on the validity of the required hazard statement where the chemical does not present a combustible dust hazard in the form shipped. Similarly, the required elements listed in Appendix D for SDSs are the minimum information required and OSHA believes that additional information that satisfies C.3.1 may be included in Section 2 of the SDS if the additional information concerns hazard identification. Therefore, it would be acceptable to OSHA if responsible parties included either alternative in conjunction with the required hazard statement on labels and SDSs for such chemicals.
  3. Safety Data Sheets. Your two questions on SDSs also pertain to chemicals that are not a combustible dust in the form shipped but that may present a combustible dust hazard under normal conditions of use due to the way they are processed by a downstream user.

    1. You ask whether SDSs may include additional information and explanatory statements, and provided us with a hypothetical SDS containing such information. In general, OSHA does not offer letters of interpretation passing on the adequacy of particular SDSs because OSHA does not possess the manufacturers' knowledge about the hazards and use of the product. OSHA is not making a determination on the adequacy of the hypothetical SDS you provided, however, there are a few general issues presented that OSHA can provide an interpretation on.

      In Section 2 (Hazard Identification) of the SDS, you propose listing:

      1. "OSHA Hazard Category: Combustible Dust";
      2. "GHS Hazard Categories: Not classified";
      3. "OSHA label elements," including the fact that there is no pictogram, a signal word of "Warning," the hazard statement for combustible dust with the additional language noted above in 1.b., and certain precautionary statements about the combustible dust hazard;
      4. Information about any hazards not otherwise classified presented by the product; and
      5. HMIS and NFPA ratings for the product.
    2. OSHA RESPONSE: For purposes of this response, OSHA assumes that the SDS is for a chemical that poses a combustible dust hazard arising from downstream processing, but not in the shipped form, and that it presents no other HCS-covered hazards. In such cases, OSHA views the language in items (i) and (ii) above as being consistent with the requirements of Section 2(a) of Appendix D of HCS 2012.
      For item (iii), it is consistent with Section 2(b) of Appendix D to note that there is no pictogram" and to use the same additional language that appears on the label in conjunction with the required hazard warning language. The signal word "Warning" is also required. OSHA has no required precautionary statements for combustible dust, and therefore none are required in Section 2 of the SDS. Responsible parties may add their own precautionary statements to Section 2 so long as they are relevant and do not contradict or cast doubt on the validity of the other information in the SDS.
      The information referenced in item (iv) is required by Section 2(c) of Appendix D. On item (v), responsible parties may include HMIS and NFPA ratings in Section 2 of the SDS as long as they do not contradict or cast doubt on the HCS 2012 classification.
    3. Appendix C.4.30, footnote 2, states that where chemicals are not shipped in a dust form but may be processed under normal conditions of use by a downstream user in such a way as to create a combustible dust hazard, the responsible party may provide labels in accordance with 1910.1200(f)(4). That provision allows labels to be provided once to downstream users, either with the initial shipment or with the SDS for the chemical. You ask whether it would be acceptable to provide the (f)(4) label by printing it at the top of the first page of the SDS.
  4. OSHA RESPONSE: Yes, where (f)(4) applies, it is acceptable to provide the label by printing it at the top of the first page of the SDS. Note that the (f)(4) partial labeling exemption is available only for chemicals that present no HCS 2012-covered hazard in the form shipped. If a chemical presents an HCS 2012-covered hazard in the form shipped, for example a health hazard, the (f)(4) exemption would not apply even if the chemical presents a combustible dust hazard only after processing in the normal conditions of use.
  5. Labels on shipped containers. You have several questions concerning the labeling of chemicals presenting a combustible dust hazard.
    1. You ask whether it is acceptable for a shipped container containing a chemical that presents a combustible dust hazard to include an HMIS label in addition to the information required by 1910.1200(f)(1) and C.4.30.

      OSHA RESPONSE: Yes, so long as the ratings in the HMIS label do not contradict or cast doubt on the validity of label information required by HCS 2012 (C.3.1) or impede the user's ability to identify the information required by HCS 2012 (C.3.2).
    2. You also ask whether, when (f)(4) applies, the shipped container may bear a label containing only product identifiers, manufacturer name and address, and an emergency phone number. In addition, you ask whether, in addition to the information contained in the previous sentence, the container may also bear an HMIS label.

      OSHA RESPONSE: Yes, where (f)(4) applies and the HCS 2012 label has already been provided by other means, either of these alternatives are acceptable. In fact, OSHA encourages responsible parties to provide product identifier and contact information on each shipped product whenever they take advantage of the (f)(4) option. However, any information that appears may not contradict or cast doubt on the validity of the label information required by HCS 2012.
    3. Finally, you ask whether, under footnote 2 to C.4.30, the (f)(4) partial labeling exemption is available for a liquid that under normal conditions of use may turn into a solid form that presents a combustible dust hazard.
  6. OSHA RESPONSE: Yes, assuming the liquid in its shipped form presents no other hazards that would be classified under HCS 2012. As discussed in 2.b, if the liquid presents any other hazards, then (f)(4) would not apply. Again, OSHA encourages responsible parties to provide the product identifier and contact information on each such product.
  7. Workplace labels. This issue concerns the workplace labeling requirements under 1910.1200(f)(6) in situations where a chemical is not a combustible dust in the form shipped, but may become one when processed by a downstream user. Your first question is whether, when the responsible party provides the label in accordance with (f)(4), the downstream user must label any containers containing the chemical in the workplace. Second, you ask if whether, once the product is processed in a way to create the combustible dust hazard, the employer may warn of the hazard by labeling the area (consistent with 1910.1200(f)(7)) where the processing of the materials generates sufficient dust to present a combustible dust hazard in lieu of affixing an (f)(1) label to each container. Finally, if the materials are not in a "container," as defined in 1910.1200(c), but the processing of the materials (e.g., the sawing of PVC pipes or lumber) is such that it may create a potential combustible dust hazard, you ask whether the employer may warn of the hazard by labeling the work areas (consistent with 1910.1200(f)(7)) where the processing of the materials takes place in lieu of affixing an (f)(6) label on each piece of piping or lumber.
  8. OSHA RESPONSE: This response assumes the only HCS 2012-covered hazard presented by the chemical is that related to combustible dust. On your first question, the workplace labeling requirement would begin only once the chemical is brought into the work area where it will be processed in a way to create the combustible dust hazard. On your second question, 1910.1200(f)(7) states that for stationary process containers, the employer may use signs or placards "as long as the alternative method identifies the containers to which it is applicable and conveys the information required by paragraph (f)(6) of this section to be on the label." Thus, for stationary process containers, so long as the signs or placards used in your scenario are easily visible to the employees in the work area, convey the information required by (f)(6), and identify the containers to which they are applicable, the employer's workplace labeling obligation for the chemical would be satisfied. Other containers must bear the information specified in (f)(6). At a minimum, (f)(6) requires the product identifier and words, pictures and/or symbols that provide general information of the hazard, and in conjunction with other information immediately available to the employees, provides employees with the specific information about the combustible dust hazard.
Finally, the workplace labeling requirements in (f)(6) apply only to chemicals that are in containers. Thus, individual boards or pipes that might create a combustible dust hazard when cut do not need to be labeled under (f)(6). It is permissible (and OSHA encourages) the use of signs or placards to advise workers of the hazard in such circumstances, but signs and placards are not required.
Of course, the employer has other responsibilities under HCS 2012 for these products as well, including training, maintaining SDSs, and providing SDSs to employees in an easily accessible manner.

On-Site Consultation Program helps reduce injuries and illness in NY Facility

On-site Consultation Program leads to decline in injury and illness rates at New York residential healthcare facility
On-site Consultation Program
After seeing a spike in workplace injuries, Elderwood Health Care at Wedgewood turned to OSHA for help to reduce injuries among its 160 healthcare workers. The residential facility in Amherst, N.Y., provides long-term nursing and rehabilitation services and care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory-impairing disorders. Elderwood worked with the state's on-site consultation program to identify and correct hazards and improve its safety and health program. After asking OSHA for assistance, the facility saw a 66 percent reduction in worker injury and illness cases.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. As part of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program, highly qualified safety and health professionals from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.

National Safety Compliance also has developed a Free Introduction to OSHA DVD and Workbook. This program is designed to assist you in complying with OSHA Regulations. The video will talk about how and why OSHA was created, when they began and some additional information on what they do.
Included with this DVD, you receive an assessment checklist, a full-color manual about 39 different OSHA and safety related topics and a CD-Rom with over 300 printable PDF documents about OSHA compliance.