OSHA asks Connecticut employers to safeguard workers after heat leads to employee’s kidney failure
Shabazz Services Enterprise LLC cited; worker’s heat illness ‘preventable’
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The hospitalization of a Hartford worker for acute dehydration and kidney failure due to heat stress should not have happened.
An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Shabazz Services Enterprise LLC lacked a program to inform and protect its employees against heat stress hazards after the worker began sweating excessively, vomiting and cramping on June 23. The heat stress symptoms continued on June 24, resulting in the worker’s hospitalization for eight days.
The absence of such a program has resulted in OSHA citing* the Hartford-based company for one serious violation on Sept. 17.
The employee and fellow workers were performing asbestos abatement inside a sealed containment area in a gutted brick building at 445 Zion St. in Hartford. During this time, the outside heat index reached as high as 96.5 degrees.
“This worker’s hospitalization and serious illness were preventable. The symptoms of heat stress were clear, yet the company lacked a program to safeguard its employees,” said Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford.
OSHA also found that the heat hazard intensified because of inside work in a contained area with no fresh air intake; employees wearing Tyvek suits and personal protective equipment; and inadequate water and work breaks.
An effective heat stress prevention program would have helped the hospitalized worker and his fellow employees recognize heat stress hazards and acclimate, and ensure they had adequate water, rest and shade.
“Companies with employees working in high temperatures must develop an effective heat stress management program. Teach employees to recognize symptoms, take preventive action and know what to do when symptoms appear in co-workers and themselves,” said Simpson.
The elements of an effective heat stress prevention program may include the following:
- Train employees and supervisors to recognize heat illness signs and implement responses, including stopping work, moving affected workers to a cool place and evaluating their condition. Report their condition and seek medical assistance, if needed.
- Implement a heat acclimatization program for new employees and those returning from absences of a week or more, gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks until they can tolerate heat.
- Provide workers with cool, potable water in close, convenient and easily accessible areas.
- Remind employees to stay hydrated with frequent drinks of water during high heat.
- Increase frequency and length of breaks, and encourage workers to rest in air-conditioned areas during excessive heat.
- Consult with a heat mitigation professional to evaluate heat exposure, and determine and implement recommended safeguards.
To assist employers and workers in identifying and eliminating heat hazards, OSHA has an ongoing campaign to educate outdoor workers and their employers about heat illness hazards and safeguards.
OSHA’s free Heat Safety Tool calculates the heat index for a work site and displays a risk level for outdoor workers. With a click, users can get reminders about protective measures that should be taken to protect workers from heat-related illness. The app is available in English and Spanish.
Shabazz Services Enterprise faces a proposed fine of $2,800. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Hartford office at 860-240-3152.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.