New guidance from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) comes as a result of concerns around rising global temperatures and their imposed risks on public health, which recognises the risk of increased heat exposure to both indoor and outdoor workers.
The guidance, which was released on May 15th, is free to download from the EU-OSHA website and covers the various risks associated with increased heat exposure to workers, and what measures can be put in place to protect your workforce this summer.
Background and scope of guidance
The increase in average ambient temperature expected with climate change can have a significant impact on workplaces. Extreme heat events can cause significant health issues such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other heat stress related illnesses. Higher temperatures for longer periods of time can also increase the risk of injuries due to fatigue, lack of concentration, poor decision making, and other factors. A reduction in productivity may also occur. Increasing temperatures may cause increased stress levels in workers, including workers involved in emergency services and outdoor workers who have to work altered time schedules to avoid periods of high temperature. Some materials and equipment may also be affected by higher temperatures and higher exposures to chemicals may be related to working in hot environments, for example when working with solvents and other volatile substances. Finally, hotter temperatures can increase the levels of air pollution and harmful exposures to workers, such as ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (e.g., smog) and favour the build-up of air contaminants due to stagnating air.
All workers are entitled to an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled, and temperature at work is one of the risks that employers should assess whether the work is being done indoors or outdoors.
This guide provides practical guidance on how to manage the risks associated with working in heat and information on what to do if a worker begins to suffer from a heat-related illness.
The guide was drafted based on existing guidance from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHA), the UK Health and Safety executive (HSE), the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health (CCOSH), and Safe Work Australia.
Visit osha.europa.eu for more information.
Find the free, downloadable guide at https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/heat-work-guidance-workplaces