OSHA Cites Alabama Company After Heat Illness Related Death - Worksite Medical
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As temperatures soar during the summer months, the risk of heat-related illness escalates, posing a significant threat to individuals exposed to excessive heat. From heat cramps and heat exhaustion, to potentially fatal heatstroke, these conditions can manifest swiftly and severely, especially in high-humidity environments.

Heat illnesses not only impair physical well-being, but also impact cognitive function, leading to impaired judgment and coordination.

Moreover, vulnerable populations such as outdoor workers, the elderly, and individuals with certain medical conditions face heightened risks.

In July 2023, a 33-year-old concrete finisher collapsed at a construction site, falling victim to the merciless grip of heat illness.

This unfortunate incident, investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sheds light on the preventable hazards that claimed one life and exposed others to extreme heat.

Recognizing the severity of these conditions is paramount, and requires the implementation of preventive measures such as hydration, seeking shade, and scheduling outdoor activities during cooler times of the day.

Vigilance and proactive measures are key to safeguarding against the potentially life-threatening consequences of heat-related illness this summer.

Here, we’ll break down what happened, and offer tips on how you can prevent this from occurring on your job site.


Related Article: Heat Illness Death Leads to OSHA Citation          

Related Article: Department of Labor Continues Major Push for Heat Safety Measures



A worker wiping sweat from his forehead, who may be displaying the first symptoms of heat illness

The Fatal Incident


On July 28, 2023, amidst a sweltering heat index of 107 degrees and stifling humidity reaching 85 percent, workers were hand-forming concrete curbs in Huntsville, Alabama. Among them, the 33-year-old laborer exhibited unmistakable signs of heat distress.

Witnessed by others as stumbling, babbling incoherently, and even vomiting, his decline was a stark warning of impending danger. Unfortunately, despite attempts at first aid and swift transportation to the hospital, he passed away a mere two hours after admission.

Unfortunately, this incident also reflects a broader trend of escalating dangers posed by rising temperatures.

In 2022 alone, fatalities attributed to extreme heat surged by 18.6 percent compared to the previous year. The toll of environmental heat-related deaths climbed from 36 in 2021, to 43 in 2022.

OSHA also urges employers to visit the agency’s winter safety page to understand the dangers of cold-weather hazards in the workplace.


OSHA’s Verdict


Following the incident, OSHA’s investigation revealed a grim reality: the company had subjected not only the deceased worker but also 18 other employees to the perils of extreme heat.

Exposed to prolonged hours under the blazing sun during their 10-hour shifts, these workers faced an unnecessary gamble with their lives.


Facing Consequences


The construction company didn’t escape unscathed from the aftermath of negligence. OSHA levied a penalty of $16,131 against the company, a harsh reminder of the legal and moral responsibility employers’ bear in safeguarding their workers.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC).


Preventable Measures


Joel Batiz, OSHA’s Area Office Director in Birmingham, Alabama, lamented the loss, emphasizing the preventable nature of the tragedy. “Ensuring access to shade and regular rest breaks could have saved a life,” he remarked.

Batiz urged employers to prioritize worker safety regardless of the season, advocating for rest cycles, weather exposure education, acclimatization periods, and stringent safety protocols.

Keeping outdoor workers safe from heat illness is crucial during the hot summer months.

So, what can you do as warm weather approaches this summer?


Protecting Against Heat Illness


1. Stay Hydrated:

Encourage workers to drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty. Provide easy access to water coolers or hydration stations to help facilitate regular hydration.

2. Take Regular Breaks:

Schedule frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas to allow workers to cool down and recover from the heat. While it might seem like unnecessary downtime, it actually pays dividends when compared to overheated & exhausted employees.

3. Wear Appropriate Clothing:

Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton can help keep the body cooler. Hats with wide brims and sunglasses can also provide additional protection from the sun.

4. Use Sunscreen:

Advise workers to apply sunscreen regularly, especially if working outdoors for extended periods. Sunburn can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

5. Monitor Signs of Heat Illness:

Educate workers about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as dizziness, nausea, headache, and confusion. Encourage them to notify supervisors if they or their colleagues experience any of these symptoms.

6. Adjust Work Schedules:

Whenever possible, schedule outdoor work during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon. This helps minimize exposure to the hottest temperatures.

7. Provide Shade:

Set up temporary shade structures or canopies in work areas to offer relief from direct sunlight. Alternatively, encourage the use of umbrellas or pop-up tents for individual shade.

8. Training and Education:

Conduct training sessions to educate workers about the risks of heat-related illnesses and the importance of preventive measures. Ensure they understand the significance of taking breaks, staying hydrated, and recognizing early signs of heat stress.

With these simple, yet effective measures, you help protect your outdoor workers from the dangers of heat illnesses and create a safer jobsite during the summer months.


Bringing It Together


As we face the escalating threat of climate change, it’s imperative to prioritize the safety of those on the front lines, especially in industries like construction where outdoor work is unavoidable.

Implementing robust safety measures isn’t just a legal obligation; it’s a moral imperative. Let’s ensure that no worker succumbs to the scorching heat of summer ever again.


Mobile Audiometric Testing

For audiometric testing, which is required by OSHA, Worksite Medical brings the examinations directly to your worksite. Employers must make audiometric testing available at no cost to all employees who are exposed to an action level of 85 dB or above, measured as an 8-hour TWA.

You can get up to six audio booths and up to 20 exams per hour for efficient testing. Audiometric testing is pure tone air-conducted hearing testing performed in each ear at frequencies of 500, 1K, 2K, 3K, 4K, 6K, and 8K. This sort of testing identifies hearing levels and sensitivity to the exposed sound.

We also provide hearing safety training. And, you never have to send your team members away to a clinic. Get your risk-free quote or schedule your on-site audiometric exams below. Let’s keep your team safe and stay ahead of OSHA inspections together.

Take a virtual tour of our mobile medical units HERE.


Stay In Compliance With Worksite Medical

In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees.

Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.

If you’re in need of DOT physical exams for your team, look no further! We offer both individual and company-wide DOT physical exams. For more information on what DOT physical exams involve, or to schedule exams for you and your team, head to: DOT Physical Exams

Additionally, we conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience. You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.

With Worksite Medical, a mobile medical testing unit — we can bring all the resources of a lab to you. Our certified lab technicians can perform both qualitative and quantitative respirator tests to ensure a perfect fit.

Protect your team and your workplace now with Worksite Medical. Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.

Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote.