OSHA Cites Company for Fatal Heat-Related Injury 

OSHA recently cited Middleburg, Florida-based Southeastern Subcontractors Inc. for failing to protect employees from the dangerous hazards of working outdoors in extreme heat.

OSHA investigated the roofing company after an employee died from hyperthermia while working at a residential site in Jacksonville. The agency issued one serious citation for exposing employees to heat-related injuries and one other-than-serious violation for failing to report a workplace fatality to OSHA within 8 hours of its occurrence. The company faces proposed penalties of $22,173.

“Employees exposed to heat on the job — whether indoors or outdoors — are at an increased risk of suffering heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA Jacksonville Area Office Director. “Tragedies such as these can be prevented if employers develop and implement a heat illness prevention program and provide employees with water, rest and shade.”

Agency Uses General Duty Clause

While OSHA does not have a specific standard covering heat stress hazards, the agency has invoked the General Duty Clause — as was done in this case — to cite employers who have allowed their employees to be exposed to serious physical harm or death from excessively hot work environments. 

Addressing Heat Stress

Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s temperature is abnormally high because it cannot regulate the heat from the environment. Some methods of abating heat stress hazards in workplaces include, but are not limited to:

  • Permitting workers to drink water or cold liquids (e.g., sports drinks) at liberty
  • Establishing provisions for a work/rest regimen so that exposure time to high temperatures and/or the work rate is decreased
  • A training program informing employees about the effects of heat stress, and how to recognize heat-related illness symptoms and prevent heat-induced illnesses
  • A screening program to identify health conditions aggravated by elevated environmental temperatures
  • An acclimation program for new employees or employees returning to work from absences of three or more days
  • Specific procedures to be followed for heat-related emergency situations
  • Provisions that first aid be administered immediately to employees displaying symptoms of heat-related illness

In addition, employers should develop a heat stress program that incorporates the following: