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PPE Manufacturer Ergodyne Discusses Importance of Heat Stress

With a potential federal heat stress standard years away, work safety advocate and PPE innovator Ergodyne is stressing the urgency of now in protecting workers from the dangers of environmental heat––the cost of which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acknowledges is vastly underestimated.

Ergodyne was one of the first industrial safety manufacturers to address the risk of occupational heat stress with its launch of evaporative cooling gear in the 1990s.

In the time since, several states including California, Washington, Minnesota and recently Oregon have enacted heat stress standards of their own, but a federal regulation––first proposed by NIOSH 50 years ago––has failed to come to fruition.

CalOSHA found a 30 percent reduction of related injuries in the state since they passed the nation’s most stringent heat laws in 2005.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 1,940 injuries and 56 deaths due to environmental heat in 2020, though many heat-related incidences go unreported or are categorized under another injury initially caused by lowered cognitive or physical functioning due to excessive heat.

A report from consumer interest group Public Citizen found that “Heat is likely responsible for at least 170,000 work-related injuries and between 600 and 2,000 occupational fatalities in the United States every year, which would rank it third among all causes of worker injuries and death”.

In September of 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor announced enhanced, expanded measures to protect workers from hazards of extreme heat, indoors and out. Those measures included the launch of a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard and deployment of a National Emphasis Program (NEP).

The NEP targets over 70 high-risk outdoor and indoor industries––primarily within construction and manufacturing where exposure is particularly high––and greenlights OSHA to conduct heat-related inspections while encouraging protective measures such as training, acclimatization procedures, and access to water, rest and shade.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average heat wave season is about 49 days longer now than it was in the 1960s. That becomes especially consequential, the agency states, because heat waves occurring earlier in the spring or later in the fall catch people off-guard, increasing exposure to the health risks associated with heat waves.

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