Heat Illness: A Descriptive Analysis Within the U.S.
- Nicholas Tymvios (Bucknell University) | Michael Behm (East Carolina University) | Andrea Yunyan Jia (University of Hong Kong)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- June 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 40 - 45
- 2019. American Society of Safety Professionals
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 6 since 2007
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- Heat-related illness in the U.S. construction industry is an underreported and under-researched OSH hazard, and these workers are potentially exposed to extreme temperatures that can adversely affect their well-being.
- This study used OSHA data to locate heat-related events. Most heat-related cases were found in California, although this is due to that state’s emphasis program on heat and indicates underreporting or under-identification of work-related heat illnesses in other states.
- Without a specific heat-related standard, OSHA uses the General Duty Clause to cite employers, but only after an incident occurs.
- This article aims to increase awareness of the hazard of heat stress, which seems to be underreported, and to encourage policymakers to improve reporting requirements in all U.S. states.
In construction, large portion of the work is performed outdoors. Extreme temperatures influence worker safety, and during summer months workers experience heat stress. The aim of this article is to increase awareness of the underreported hazard of heat stress in the U.S. through an epidemiological analysis of the heat-related fatalities and hospitalization cases recorded in the OSHA incident report database. This article adds to the body of knowledge by identifying heat stress as an overlooked occupational health hazard in the U.S. construction industry, and it aims to add value to industry practitioners and policymakers seeking to positively impact overall safety and health in construction.
Heat stress is the overall heat load on the human body that includes temperature, humidity and radiant heat in the thermal environment, and metabolic heat generated by physical activities (Lopez, 1996). Heat illness is the result of the body’s inability to expel heat, causing excessive sweat loss or an overly high body core temperature. Ailments that arise on construction sites because of excess heat are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (fainting) and heat rash (Lopez, 1996; McKinnon & Utley, 2005).
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