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NIOSH Updates 30-Year-Old Heat Stress Document

Sunday, March 6, 2016 - Citing recent events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response and new evidence suggesting that heat stress is an increasingly common problem for many workers, especially those located in areas closer to the equator, NIOSH has updated its document on occupational exposure to heat and hot environments. The revised version of NIOSH’s Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hot Environmentswas published this month, and includes additional information about the physiological changes that result from heat stress; evidence to redefine heat stroke and associated symptoms; and updated information on physiological monitoring and personal protective equipment and clothing that can be used to control heat stress. The criteria document, which was last revised in 1986, also includes information from relevant studies, including those on caffeine use.

The appendices of NIOSH’s revised document feature additional resources for worker and employer training, including information on the use of urine color charts, the National Weather Service Heat Index, and the OSHA-modified corresponding worksite protective measures and associated risk levels.

Though the revised criteria document incorporates “substantial” new information, the authors indicate a need for additional research: “Two newer areas of research that will likely continue to grow are the effects of climate change on workers and how heat stress affects the toxic response to chemicals,” the executive summary reads.

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