Much of the country is feeling the heat this week at the official start of summer, with temperatures reaching triple digits in many areas. According to National Weather Service Acting Deputy Director Steven Cooper, heat is the most overlooked weather hazard with thousands of outdoors working suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the summer months. In a campaign to prevent heat illness and deaths, the NWS collaborated with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to spread the word on heat safety. OSHA has been reaching out through training sessions, public service announcements, and media events to educate the public on the seriousness of heat illness.
In a June 20th teleconference aimed at television and radio meteorologists and reporters, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis noted the invaluable role that broadcasters play in getting out information. She relayed the three critical words to include in their broadcasts: Water, Rest, and Shade. “This is a vital public service,” she commented. “Television and radio meteorologists and weather reporters can speak directly to outdoor workers as well as employers who need to be educated on keeping their employees safe on the job.”
David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA, noted that now is the critical time to get this information out since people have not yet acclimated to the heat, making it a particularly dangerous time. He commented that training workers to recognize the signs of heatstroke is as important as educating employers to provide regular breaks and access to water. Acting quickly at the first signs of heat exhaustion—such as headache, nausea, dizziness—can prevent more serious consequences, like heat stroke, which can involve confusion, fainting, or seizures.
OSHA has developed a new smartphone App, the OSHA Heat Safety Tool, that is now available and can be downloaded here. The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite and displays a risk level and users receive reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level.
As the agencies continue to develop new ways to keep outdoor workers safe they urge the weather community to not only spread the word in their broadcasts but also through personal Web sites, Twitter, and Facebook. Michaels encourages the use of the materials on the OSHA Web site, noting the message is one that can be used by anyone to raise awareness and promote heat illness prevention.