The Electrical Worker online
July 2019

From the Officers
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Working Safe in Summer Heat

For many of us, the arrival of summer means barbecues, beach trips and long days with warm weather. But for anyone who works outside, it can be a dangerous time of year. Heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer — and it's not getting cooler anytime soon.

As you'll read in this issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put out information on how to stay safe in the heat, but it has yet to come up with a federal standard for employers to follow. Some states have come up with their own rules, but for many of our members across the U.S. and Canada, it's up to each of us to make sure we're safe.

Just because OSHA doesn't have an official rule for what constitutes heat safety doesn't mean you're without any rights. Employers still have to provide everyone with a safe workplace, and that includes protecting you from extreme heat.

OSHA's campaign emphasizes the three basics of staying safe: water, rest and shade. But not all employers take heat protection as seriously as they should. Signatory contractor Cupertino Electric in California is one of the good ones. The company provides employees bottled water, air-conditioned vans and specialized cooling chairs when temperatures reach sky-high, and plenty of our other contractors do the same. California is also one of the states that established its own standard.

But even when there are good guidelines in place, it's still our responsibility to do our part and check on our brothers and sisters to make sure they're OK. Nobody wants to end up another statistic.

One of the great things about a union is the sense of solidarity. We're a family and we look out for each other. We can set the tone in every one of our locals and on every job site that safety is an integral part of the job, and that includes paying attention to the signs of heat illness in our fellow members.

OSHA doesn't seem to be moving any closer to a standard right now, but that doesn't mean we're sitting idly by. We're working where we can to make sure all of our members — including those working indoors in hot conditions — get the protections they need. Until there's a federal standard, we'll continue pushing for one and providing the best training and advocacy to make sure we're working as safely as possible.

With every summer seeming to set new high temperature records, it's becoming more critical to take your health — and that of your coworkers — seriously. Stay safe, brothers and sisters. Then we can all enjoy the summer fun this year.


Also: Stephenson: Leading on Energy Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer