OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The heat is impacting all Oklahomans right now – especially those whose jobs have to be done outside.

So what rights do workers have and what can employers do to protect them?

Right now, in the midst of the noise on outdoor job sites, a silent killer lingers in the air.

The intense heat poses a threat to those not taking precautions.

“Some people may need more breaks, some people may need more water,” said Jason Hudson, Director of the OSHA Consultation Division with the Oklahoma Department of Labor. “It just depends on your body’s acclimation.”

This week, local labor and employee safety experts like Hudson are reminding employers in the to give employees the tools and time they need to stay safe.

“Communicate that plan effectively to them so they know what to do and what precautions to take,” Hudson said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration – also known as OSHA – says employees should be encouraged to drink water every 15 minutes, take frequent breaks in the shade.

Employers should have a heat emergency plan and allow workers to build a tolerance to the heat.

Hudson recommends also having a buddy system.

“If you train your employees on what to look for in heat illness, heat stress and you’re working with someone, you can notice those symptoms before they may notice that heat illness developing,” said Hudson. 

Light-colored or loose-fitting clothing is always recommended in the heat.

Now may be a time for employers to reconsider their dress codes.

“A light colored clothing or a loose-fitting clothing, something that doesn’t soak up a lot of heat – something breathable would help,” Hudson said. 

Under federal law, employees have the right to speak up about hazards, including a lack of heat precautions, without fear of retaliation.

“The first step is definitely talk to your supervisor, talk to your manager,” said Hudson. “Let them know you need a little help. If they’re too hot and they feel they’re not being accommodated at their work, they can always call OSHA and file a formal complaint and that’s on the OSHA website, they can do it electronically or call the 1(800)-OSHA number.”

OSHA has an app that helps calculate the heat index on worksites and shows a risk level for outdoor workers.
It also provides tips to stay safe.

If you have concerns, complaints, or just need worker safety tips, you can call OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 or visit their website.