Outdoor workers reminded of their rights and safety precautions in the blistering Oklahoma heat

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The heat is affecting everyone in Oklahoma right now — especially those whose work must be done outdoors.

So what are workers’ rights and what can employers do to protect them?

Right now, amid the noise of the construction sites outside, a silent killer lingers in the air.

The intense heat poses a threat to those who do not take their precautions.

“Some people may need more breaks, others may need more water,” said Jason Hudson, director of the OSHA Consulting Division at the Oklahoma Department of Labor. “It just depends on how acclimatized your body is.”

This week, local labor and employee safety experts like Hudson are reminding employers to give employees the tools and time they need to stay safe.

“Communicate this plan effectively so they know what to do and what precautions to take,” Hudson said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration — also known as OSHA — says employees should be encouraged to drink water every 15 minutes and take frequent breaks in the shade.

Employers should have a heat emergency plan and allow workers to develop a heat tolerance.

Hudson also recommends having a buddy system.

“If you train your employees on what to look for when dealing with heat illness, heat stress, and you work with someone, you may notice these symptoms before they notice the heat illness develops,” Hudson said.

Light-colored or loose-fitting clothing is always recommended in hot weather.

Now may be the time for employers to reconsider their dress codes.

“A light-colored or loose-fitting garment, something that doesn’t absorb a lot of heat — something breathable would help,” Hudson said.

Under federal law, employees have the right to speak out about hazards, including a lack of heat precautions, without fear of reprisal.

“The first step is definitely talking to your supervisor, talking to your manager,” Hudson said. “Let them know you need a little help. If they’re too hot and they feel like they’re not being accommodated at their job, they can always call OSHA and file a formal complaint and that’s on the OSHA website, they can do so electronically or call the 1(800)-OSHA number.”

OSHA has an app that calculates the heat index on construction sites and indicates a level of risk for outdoor workers.
It also provides tips for staying safe.

If you have concerns, complaints, or just need worker safety tips, you can call OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 or visit their website.

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Susan W. Lloyd