The leading weather-related killer of U.S. workers is heat—not snow, hurricanes, or tornadoes—and the problem is becoming ever-more dangerous as 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) already publishes preventive advice for general education, employers’ responsibilities, and workers’ information. But to further raise the profile of heat dangers, OSHA is holding a “Beat the Heat” contest to raise awareness about the hazards of heat exposure in indoor and outdoor workplaces.
The deadline for contest entries is June 9, and winners will be chosen based on factors including: innovation, best non-English language entry, creativity, indoor heat emphasis, strength of message, and young worker emphasis.
The contest is open to stakeholders nationwide, ranging from businesses and unions to educational institutions, government entities, and individuals. To qualify, participants must create a workplace awareness tool such as an infographic, training curriculum, poster, or logo to increase heat hazard recognition among employers and workers.
Business in every sector feel the impact of heat, with Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showing that heat stress killed 815 U.S. workers, and seriously injured more than 70,000 more, from 1992 through 2017. Even more were likely affected, since regulators warn that those statistics are likely a vast underestimate, given that injuries and illnesses are underreported in the U.S., especially in the sectors employing vulnerable and often undocumented workers.
By business sector, workers in agriculture and construction are at highest risk for getting heat illness, which can exacerbate existing health problems like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease. But the problem has a disproportionate hazard for people of color and people with lower incomes, the Department of Labor says.