Occupational Safety & Health Administration

OSHA Cites Contractor After Paving Employee Dies from Heat Illness

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited LH Musser & Sons Inc. in Clarksburg for one serious violation of OSHA's general duty clause following a heat-related fatality in June. OSHA initiated an inspection after an employee who was performing paving operations in the parking lot of a church located at 16th and Varnum Streets NW in the District of Columbia became ill from heat stress and was taken to a hospital, where he died.

"This tragedy underscores the need for employers to ensure that workers have frequent access to water, rest and shade to prevent heat illness and injuries during the hot summer months, and also why it is important that workers are trained to recognize and respond to the signs of heat-related illness," said Robert Szymanski, acting director of OSHA's Baltimore/Washington Area Office.

Managing Heat Stress and Working In Hot Environments

The violation involves failing to provide a program addressing heat-related hazards in the workplace. In this case, the workplace was the outdoors, where employees performed duties involving hot asphalt in direct sunlight. The employer did not maintain a work/rest regimen, train employees on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses as well as on methods of prevention, and ensure that employees consumed adequate amounts of water. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Tips for Staying Cool in the Summer Heat

The company also was cited for one other-than-serious violation for failing to report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a curriculum to be used for workplace training. Additional information and resources on heat illness – including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency – can be found at http://www.osha.gov/heat.

OSHA also has released a free application for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. It can be downloaded in both English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/heatapp.

The paving and milling company, which faces a proposed fine of $6,900, has 15 days from receipt of the citation and proposed penalty to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the finding before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report 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 Baltimore/Washington office at 410-865-2055.

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