02 Oct OSHA Guidance: Wearing Face Coverings in Hot and Humid Environments
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance on safety protocols employees can use when wearing cloth face coverings in hot, humid indoor and outdoor work conditions. Wearing face coverings has become necessary in multiple industries because of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Heat-Related Illness and Respiratory Hazard
According to OSHA, hot and humid working conditions can pose a respiratory hazard to workers and account for 50 to 70% of all outdoor fatalities in the workplace. Hazardous heat exposure can occur indoors or outdoors, and can occur during any season if the conditions are right.
For these reasons, and because of the current pandemic, OSHA has published guidance for employers on how they can protect workers who wear cloth face coverings in hot and humid work conditions.
OSHA’s guidance provides best practices to reduce the risk of heat-related illness or injuries while wearing cloth face coverings, including:
- Allowing employees to use personal cooling systems;
- Considering alternatives to wearing face coverings;
- Monitoring weather conditions and scheduling strenuous activities during cooler parts of the day; and
- Continuing to use administrative and engineering safety controls in addition to cloth face coverings.
Employers should train their employees on how to prevent heat-related illnesses and stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should also consider making the indoor and outdoor best practices publications available to their employees.
Heat Stress Risk Factors
Risk Factors for heat stress include:
- Hot and humid temperatures
- No acclimatization to the hot climate
- High exertion level
- Not drinking enough water
- Not wearing wicking material for clothing and face coverings
- Not changing out a mask when it’s wet
For more information on protecting employees from COVID-19 and heat stress, visit OSHA’s occupational heat exposure webpage.
OSHA’s guidance provides best practices to reduce the risk of heat-related illness or injuries while wearing cloth face coverings.
This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. ©2020 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.