Thirty-five-year-old Timothy Barber started a new job on Monday, July 6, 2020, at the Genesee River Bridge Project in New York. The next day, he collapsed and died at the end of his shift from heat stress and heat exhaustion.
Our investigation found he had been working alone without shade or water and not been given time to acclimatize to the 90-degree plus temperatures. We also found his employer had failed to train him and protect him and other workers from extreme heat hazards.
Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards. Dozens of workers like Timothy lose their lives each year by heat-related illnesses in indoor and outdoor workplaces, and thousands more are sickened. As temperatures continue to rise, we in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration want employers and workers to know that heat-related illnesses can be prevented by common-sense safety measures.
Here’s what we’re doing to protect workers:
- As part of our ongoing heat campaign, we’re educating employers on their responsibility to keep workers safe from extreme heat and providing resources to help everyone understand the hazards, recognize heat illness signs and take steps to stay safe.
- In 2022, we launched a National Emphasis Program on heat that allows us to proactively initiate inspections in over 70 high-risk industries when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. On days when the heat index is 80 F or higher, inspectors will look for and address heat hazards regardless of whether the worksite they are inspecting is among those targeted industries.
- Our area offices are engaged in outreach to unions, employers and organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved workers, who are disproportionately likely to be killed or sickened by heat on the job.
- Our On-Site Consultation Program provides free assistance for small- and medium-sized businesses to help identify and mitigate heat hazards.
- We are considering a workplace rule to address heat-related illnesses and are gathering input from diverse stakeholders and experts. On May 31, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health will discuss a report from its Heat Work Group on proposed recommendations regarding potential elements of a rulemaking. Register to watch the meeting online.
As we continue this critical work, we’re asking everyone to join us in taking action now. Download our Heat Safety Tool app to get recommendations for your workplace and remember these three words: Water. Rest. Shade. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can help us save lives.
If you have questions or concerns about heat or other workplace safety and health issues, please contact us online or call 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).