Occupational Exposure Limits for Heat Stress Often Exceeded: CDC

Heat stress exceeded exposure limits in all 14 fatalities, eight of 11 non-fatal heat-related illnesses.
Heat stress exceeded exposure limits in all 14 fatalities, eight of 11 non-fatal heat-related illnesses.

HealthDay News — Based on recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, occupational exposure limits for heat stress are exceeded in most recorded cases of outdoor occupational heat-related illness, according to research published in the July 6 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Aaron W. Tustin, MD, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Washington, DC, and colleagues retrospectively reviewed 25 outdoor occupational health-related illnesses (14 fatal and 11 non-fatal) investigated by the OSHA from 2011 to 2016. Personal risk factors were assessed for each incident, and the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), workload, and acclimatization status were estimated. 

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The researchers found that in all fatalities and 8 of 11 non-fatal illnesses, heat stress exceeded exposure limits. For the same 25 cases, a Heat Index screening threshold of 85 degrees Fahrenheit could identify potentially hazardous levels of workplace environmental heat when WBGT was unavailable. Six fatalities occurred when the Heat Index was <91 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Whenever heat stress exceeds occupational exposure limits, workers should be protected by acclimatization programs, training about symptom recognition and first aid, and provision of rest breaks, shade, and water," the authors write.

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