As summers get warmer, extreme heat is becoming an increasing threat to outdoor workers.
For the third year in a row, the Labor Department and the National Weather Service are working together to alert workers and employers to the risk of summer heat.
On average, at least 60 of the 658 people who die each year from the heat are outdoor workers, according to the two agencies. Thousands more workers become ill from the heat.
“It's critical that we get the word out that working in high heat can be deadly,” said David Alexander, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The National Weather Service now includes outdoor workers in summer heat advisories.
OSHA has developed an app that workers and employers can use to tell how often they should take breaks from the weather. The app is available on OSHA's home page via the heat-related illness link
Construction and agriculture workers are most at risk, Alexander said.
Notably at risk are people who have not yet become acclimatized to the weather, Alexander said. Temporary employees and seasonal workers fall into this category, he said.
That's the type of worker death that Alexander discussed Monday during a teleconference with the press.
When the weather becomes humid, temperatures don't need to get as high to cause illness and death. That's because humidity hinders the body's ability to cool itself.
A temporary employee for a trash-recycling company in New Jersey died in May 2012 during an early heat wave. The temperature that day was 93 degrees, and by the time the employee reached the hospital, his internal body temperature was 106.9 degrees, Alexander said.
His employers, Waste Management of Trenton and Labor Ready of Northeast Inc., were fined $7,000 each, Alexander said.
The keys to worker safety are drinking plenty of liquids and resting in shade or air conditioning. People should drink water every 15 minutes, Alexander said.
The frequency of rest will vary with conditions. Sometimes, employees may need to rest as frequently as every 20 minutes, he said.
Additionally, workers should wear hats.
One of the problems with heat-related illnesses is that an individual may not realize that he is becoming ill. That's why OSHA recommends that people work in pairs and that employees watch each other for signs of illness.
Already this year, three workers are known to have died from the heat, Alexander said.