Heat is the leading weather-related killer and is becoming more dangerous: 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Excessive heat can cause heat illnesses and even death if not treated properly. It also exacerbates existing health problems like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease.
Workers in agriculture and construction are at highest risk for getting heat illness, but the problem affects all workers exposed to heat, including indoor workers without climate-controlled environments, according to OSHA.
Heat stress killed 815 U.S. workers and seriously injured more than 70,000 workers from 1992 through 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is likely a vast underestimate given that injuries and illnesses are underreported in the U.S., especially in the sectors employing vulnerable and often undocumented workers. Furthermore, heat is not always recognized as a cause of heat-induced injuries or deaths and can easily be misclassified because many of the symptoms overlap with other more common diagnoses.
How To Beat The Heat
With these facts in mind, OSHA sponsored a Beat the Heat Contest to raise awareness of the dangers and hazards of heat exposure in both indoor and outdoor workplaces. The national competition has four main goals:
Heat stress killed 815 U.S. workers and seriously injured more than 70,000 workers from 1992 through 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Educate stakeholders, especially workers and employers, about heat hazards in the workplace.
- Prevent heat illness by creating an awareness campaign that increases the public’s knowledge about this issue.
- Highlight the dangers of heat.
- Motivate employers and workers to take action to prevent heat illness.
OSHA received 195 submissions to the contest, from 40 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. Entrants created a variety of awareness tools to increase worker and employer knowledge about hazardous heat in the workplace. From these entries, OSHA has selected 18 winners in the following five categories: Strongest Message, Most Creative, Most Innovative, Highlighting Indoor Heat Hazards, and Best Non-English Submission.
- JE Dunn Construction: Submitted information on creating and executing a heat injury and illness prevention campaign. The submission includes information about JE Dunn’s Strategy, slogan, training and curriculum components and other resources, such as posters.
- O’Donnell/Snider Construction: Submitted a Heat Safety Quick Guide that provides information on the dangers of working in hot environments and creating a heat safety plan. The guide is divided into four sections: the heat safety plan, procedures for monitoring heat exposure, preventative measures, and emergency response protocols.
- ELSMART Associates LLC/Korey Stringer Institute: Submitted short videos intended to support training efforts for workers. The videos describe heat-related illnesses and how to avoid them by recognizing situations that can lead to heat illness, recognizing signs and symptoms, and first aid procedures.
- General Building Contractors Association: Submitted a toolbox talk toolkit intended to be used during safety huddles. The talks cover many topics, such as, Water, Rest, Shade strategies, describing heat illness symptoms, and explaining the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App.
- CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc.: Submitted a presentation that outlines their 2023 summer campaign to educate workforce on daily heat hazards. The theme is branded around a message for workers to “Build Armor” that protects them from heat by recognizing signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, knowing how to deliver first aid and what to do in an emergency, and executing targeted preventative actions. The campaign seeks to reach workers using many types of media communication such as print products, email, digital files, and online training.
- Raytheon Missiles & Defense and Raytheon Intelligence & Space: Submitted an interactive tool (in gameshow format) that can be used by a single user or to facilitate team competitions. This tool includes gameshow-styled questions about both indoor and outdoor heat hazards, recognition of hazards, identifying signs of heat related illness, prevention and treatment, and the importance of implementing engineering and administrative controls to minimize heat stress. It is available in English and Spanish.
- Primoris & ReadyKey: Partnered and developed a mobile application (app) toolkit with interactive information and resources on heat illness prevention provided by their organizations, as well as links to other public resources, including from various government agencies. This app is a native mobile app that accesses the content with or without internet connection. The application can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play Store.
- Kent Precision Foods Group: Submitted posters and other materials that include Heat Awareness Fact Sheets, information on hydration programs, information on the cognitive effects of proper hydration, and the role of heat in workplace incidents.
- S & B Constructors and Engineers: Developed an informational video on beating the heat at work. The video uses real workers who work through the summer months and is relatable to other industries and workers. It walks viewers through a heat illness and response situation in the workplace.
- SpawGlass: Submitted the materials for its annual 100 days of summer campaign, which provides team members with safety awareness tips from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The program brings awareness to summertime heat exposures to protect worker safety and health. Workers receive weekly summertime safety messages in English and Spanish.
- Ergodyne: Submitted a one-page flyer that links to a variety of online content including: podcasts, blogs, toolbox talks, videos, case studies, and job site posters focused on hydration and heat safety.
- Alliance Field Services: Submitted a PSA radio ad on heat illness. The message raises awareness about heat illness, and shares steps individuals can take to render first aid immediately. The ad highlights Water, Rest, Shade and stresses the importance of time when dealing with heat illness.
Highlighting Indoor Heat Hazards
- McWane Ductile: Submitted a multi-channel communication campaign to increase awareness among its workforce about the risks of hazardous heat and to encourage protective measures when workers are exposed to heat in the workplace. Tools include a direct mailer, a video, a blog, social media posts, heat awareness slides for digital screens around the facilities, and heat awareness posts for an employee communications app.
- BSN Sports: Submitted a presentation that features an informational video, information about a heat illness prevention event, toolbox and hydration safety talks, as well as various infographics to educate workers about heat and hydration.
- Cleaveland/Price Inc: Submitted its heat illness training video. The video focuses on the dangers associated with becoming overheated, the effects of different types of heat-related illnesses, signs and symptoms, and what to do when heat-related illnesses happen.
- ROC United: Submitted a website, a social media toolkit, and palm cards. The submissions are part of a “heat squad” campaign where restaurant workers are encouraged to form workplace committees to understand the importance of addressing extreme heat concerns.
Best Non-English Submission
- Savage Co: Submitted a toolkit with resources related to heat stress awareness and heat illness prevention. The toolkit includes infographics, articles, heat illness prevention and symptom cards, safety topic presentations, and the video script for a leadership kickoff video. The materials are available in English and Spanish.
- University of Washington Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center: Submitted materials for a Be Heat Smart Media Kit and Health Campaign to bring awareness to heat illness in agriculture and promote best practices and resources for prevention. The campaign materials include a press release template, safety themed media cards and templates, radio campaign materials, educational and training resources, and a compilation of various social media posts and resources. The materials are available in English and Spanish.