Speeches - Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||07/01/2013|
| Presented To:||Press Conference with Meteorologists and Weather Forecasters|
| Speaker:||Dr. David Michaels|
Welcoming Remarks by
Press Conference with Meteorologists and Weather Forecasters
Good morning. I'm Dr. David Michaels. Thank you for joining this news conference especially for meteorologists and weather reporters.
Today is one of those days when I know many of you are reporting high temperatures in cities around the country.
We are only in the first days of summer, but already many cities across the country – including here in Washington, D.C. – have experienced very hot days. And, I don't need to tell you, there is a scorching heat wave in the Southwestern parts of the United States.
Whenever there is high heat, outdoor workers are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses and deaths. In fact, every year thousands of workers experience heat-related illnesses, and dozens more are killed by heat, and it happens in every part of the country.
This is why the Department of Labor has launched a nationwide awareness campaign for the last two years to keep outdoor workers safe on the job.
It's critical that we work together again this summer to get the word out that working in high heat can be deadly.
Here's just one example: Last summer in New Jersey, a 47-year-old sanitation worker started showing signs of illness while he was working. He had begun work at 6:30 in the morning and by 3:30 the temperature was 93 degrees.
He collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where his internal body temperature had reached 106.9.
He died of heat stroke. His death was entirely preventable.
OSHA's investigation determined that his employers failed to ensure that their workers consumed enough fluids and failed to properly train their employees on how to recognize and respond to the signs of heat stress.
We've already seen several heat-related fatalities this year and we really don't want to see any more. You can help: We're asking you to share our campaign's simple three-word message: Water. Rest. Shade. If outdoor workers take these precautions, it can mean the difference between life and death
The workers most at risk for heat-related illness are in construction and agriculture, but there are many outdoor workers in other industries who are at increased risk as well. These include workers in transportation, sanitation and recycling, building and grounds maintenance, landscaping services, oil and gas operations, and anyone else who does strenuous work in the open air.
We need your help to get the word out to employers that they are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. This means regular breaks for workers so they can cool down. It means regular access to water so workers can stay hydrated. It means training for workers on the symptoms of heat illness – and what to do if they see a co-worker showing signs of dehydration or heat stroke.
OSHA has five key pieces of advice:
One: Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you're not thirsty.
You probably know that the National Weather Service now includes worker safety information in all its extreme heat alerts and important worker safety information is now included on NOAA's Heat Watch page. We are grateful to the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for their partnership.
With me today is Dr. Louis (LOUIE) Uccellini, Director of the National Weather Service, who will tell us about the dangerous temperatures and weather trends that are expected this summer.
Before we take your questions, I want to take a moment to tell you a little more about OSHA's heat awareness campaign.
Since we launched our Heat Illness Prevention Campaign two summers ago, we have reached more than 7.5 million workers and employers. We have held thousands of events, trainings, and presentations; and we've distributed nearly 500,000 posters, factsheets, and other educational materials in English and Spanish.
We've found that, generally, the workers who are most at risk for heat-related illnesses are those who are new to outdoor jobs – especially temporary workers. Once a worker is acclimated to heat, the risk is lower.
Seasonal workers can be considered new even if they have been working every season for several years. Gradually increasing the workload and giving workers time to acclimate allows them to build tolerance to the heat. This is critically important for workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat, who have been away from working in the heat for a week or more, or at the beginning of a heat wave.
Employers need to be especially concerned about these workers in the heat, but they must make sure that everyone is protected with Water, Rest, and Shade – whether a worker has been on the job one day or 25 years.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Sometimes referred to as "heat stress," what we are really talking about is the range of heat illnesses that a person can experience if the right precautions aren't taken when working outdoors. It can mean an increase in:
The two most important illnesses to watch out for are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In both cases, a person may not recognize the signs themselves, so it very important to look for signs in coworkers and companions. We tell workers to take heat exhaustion very seriously and stop for first aid before it becomes heat stroke. If possible, have a buddy system to help monitor yourself and coworkers.
FREE OSHA RESOURCES
A central element of the campaign is our updated OSHA Heat Campaign webpage (available in English and Spanish), which provides access to the online tools and resources on our webpage at www.OSHA.gov.
Several of our most popular resources include the illustrated low-literacy fact sheet and a workplace poster – released in both English and Spanish and focused on reaching workers with limited English proficiency – as well as the OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Training Guide, which includes information in short, interactive lesson plans that can be completed in a tailgate or toolbox talk.
We also have two resources developed in coordination with the National Weather Service, which use the Heat Index as a trigger for employers and workers:
WE NEED YOUR HELP
Finally, I'd like to ask for your help by incorporating worker safety into your weather broadcasts.
Often when reporting heat-related stories you highlight those most at risk: young children, the elderly, pets. You will be doing a vital public service if you also include outdoor workers as a reminder that they, too, are at risk, especially during heat waves.
Workers often cannot get out of the heat – their work requires them to be exposed daily – and they may not be able to use the advice aimed at the general public. So, calling them out specifically when you announce a heat wave and discussing risk and prevention is important.
Here is the language that is added to the NOAA excessive heat warnings that are sent across the country and which you will receive:
TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS IF YOU WORK OR SPEND TIME OUTSIDE. WHEN POSSIBLE, RESCHEDULE STRENUOUS ACTIVITIES TO EARLY MORNING OR EVENING. KNOW THE SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION & HEAT STROKE. WEAR LIGHT-WEIGHT & LOOSE FITTING CLOTHING WHEN POSSIBLE & DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.
OSHA also has compliance assistance specialists throughout the U.S. who are ready to meet with employers, talk about prevention, and provide training on heat illness prevention.
OSHA's staff can also be a resource to you.
When you are broadcasting severe temperatures this summer, we're asking you to share our campaign's three-word message: Water. Rest. Shade.
If outdoor workers take these precautions, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Anyone overcome by heat should be moved into the shade immediately, and 9-1-1 should be called... because heat stroke is an emergency.
It's my hope that with all of us working together we can build a network of weather broadcasters who can respond quickly to extreme heat and get our message to workers all across our nation when they need us the most.
I have no doubt that by working together, we can save lives.
Thank you again for joining us today.
Speeches - Table of Contents|