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. 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.
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.
Next Steps for Employers
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.