Raleigh workers stay cool as OSHA works to create new heat-related work standards

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ByCindy Bae via WTVD logo
Friday, July 22, 2022
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"It is hot." With sweat dripping down his nose in Raleigh on Friday, Artis Montague didn't hesitate to answer how he's feeling.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With sweat dripping down his nose in Raleigh on Friday, Artis Montague didn't hesitate to answer how he was feeling.

"It is hot," Montague said. "I think I had at least 8-10 bottles of water."

Montague, who was working outside the Crank Arm Brewing Company, explained how working in the dog days of summer requires strategy.

"The end of July, beginning of August, it gets real hot during the day and it gets cool at night," Montague said. "I try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest at night. Take plenty of breaks and just pace myself."

Montague also wrapped up his work before the hottest part of the day, which he says is typically in the afternoon.

"It usually gets really hot about 1 to 2 p.m.," Montague said.

SEE ALSO: NC Insurance Commissioner makes smores in hot car to warn against leaving pets, children inside

Montague's life is one of the millions in the U.S. and North Carolina that OSHA is working to protect.

Data shows more than one-third of occupational heat-related deaths in the U.S. were construction workers, from 1992 to 2016.

"Cement masons were 10 times more likely to die from heat than the average construction worker," the study found. "Roofers and helpers were seven times more likely."

OSHA currently doesn't have a specific standard for hazardous heat conditions, but as the agency works to develop it, the N.C. department of labor said it is focusing a significant amount of time on outreach, education and training.

"Here at NCDOL, we are in the process of gathering information which will help our staff determine what solutions make sense for North Carolina," NCDOL said.

OSHA included rulemaking on Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the pre-rule stage and said they're reviewing the Public Citizen report.

"We have received thousands of comments from stakeholders and employers that will help guide our work in developing an all-encompassing final rule based on the most recently available science and data," OSHA's Doug Parker said. "Rulemaking takes time, and it's critical that we get it right."

NCDOT shared a video on working in hot weather, and if hydration can be easier for Montague, he said he would like to see more water fountains around the city.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker:

"Heat illness prevention is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's top priorities, and we're taking several measures to protect workers better in hot environments and reduce the dangers of heat exposure. OSHA is reviewing the Public Citizen report and continues to engage worker advocates and employers on best practices for keeping workers safe in extreme heat while helping workers understand and identify the risks of heat illness. As part of the regulatory agenda, OSHA included rulemaking on Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the pre-rule stage. We have received thousands of comments from stakeholders and employers that will help guide our work in developing an all-encompassing final rule based on the most recently available science and data. Rulemaking takes time, and it's critical that we get it right. We will continue to improve our efforts and explore opportunities to help employers and workers decrease the risk of heat exposure."

Full statement from NCDOL:

We are certainly aware that North Carolina's summers are hot and humid, which can present safety-related concerns for folks working outdoors in the heat. That's why the OSH Division focuses a significant amount of time on outreach, education and training for workers and employers. We have a section of our website specifically dedicated to heat hazards and heat illness prevention.As you'll see, our website offers recommendations for staying safe in the heat, industry guides that detail requirements for various sectors, technical assistance, webinars and sample programs for employers to put in place at their worksite. Our OSH Division is also available by phone at 919-707-7876 if employers need assistance.We are aware that federal OSHA is working on new heat stress standards and we are closely monitoring that progress. Here at NCDOL, we are in the process of gathering information (that) will help our staff determine what solutions make sense for North Carolina.