OSHA Heat Stress and Prevention National Emphasis Program

It is now late spring and temperatures across the southeast have been fairly mild, but we all know the summer heat and humidity is just around the corner. I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the topic of Heat Stress and Illness Prevention. In April 2022 OSHA launched its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Heat-Related Hazards. This Nep is designed to protect at-risk indoor/outdoor workers from the rising threat of heat-related illness. The NEP targets 70 high risk industries which includes agriculture. This article aims to address what the NEP means to employers and how to address and prevent heat-related illness in the workplace.

A National Emphasis Program is not an OSHA Standard but does empower OSHA with enforcement measures to insure employers are providing a workplace free from the effects of heat-related hazards. This NEP applies when employees are exposed to heat above 80 F and humidity above 40% (80 F heat index). Moving forward OSHA inspectors:

  • Will ask about heat-related prevention programs during all on-site inspections.
  • Will open an inspection if heat-related illness is recorded on OSHA 300 logs or there is an employee complaint.
  • Will conduct randomly generated programmed inspections when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory in the area.

In the southeast we have not experienced any programmed inspections, however other regions of the cotton belt did receive multiple heat-related programmed inspections in cotton gins last summer. This National Emphasis Program on Heat-Related Hazards is something OSHA is taking serious and something we as an industry should also be taking serious as we prepare and move into the heat of the summer.

Employers have always been aware of the dangers of heat in the workplace and in turn have made adjustments to address the hazards facing employees working indoors/outdoors in hot environments. This may be providing water, shade, frequent breaks, early starts times, etc. all which help to address the ability of employees to avoid the dangers of heat related illnesses. With this program, OSHA has released several fact sheets and guidelines to help employers address the hazards of heat related illness and increase awareness with employees.

OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Campaign: https://www.osha.gov/heat

OSHA Heat-exposure:  https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure

OSHA Fact Sheet: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/heat_stress.pdf

OSHA posters:  https://www.osha.gov/publications/bytopic/heat-illness-prevention

OSHA Heat Safety Tool: https://www.osha.gov/heat/heat-app

The links above provide great information on the topics of Heat-Related Illness and include information to assist employers with creating, implementing and training employees on heat-related illness prevention programs. Along with the written information in the links there are also many posters that can be downloaded and placed around the workplace to help remind workers about the dangers of heat-related illness. There is also a link above for an app to help employers monitor and predict when heat-related hazards may be present at their locations.

What Factors May Contribute to Heat-Related Illness?

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Low fluid consumption
  • Direct sun exposure or extreme heat
  • Limited air movement
  • Physical exertion
  • Bulky protective clothing

What is Heat-Related Illness?

Heat Stroke: Is the most serious and occurs when the body can no longer regulate temperature and body temperature rises to levels greater than 104°F. This is a medical emergency that may result in death. The symptoms are confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, and lack of the ability to sweat. Medical help must be called while attempting to cool worker down.

Heat Exhaustion: Is the next most serious and results in headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, heavy sweating, and body temperature over 104°F. Workers with heat exhaustion should be moved to cooler area and given liquids to drink. The body can be cooled with cold compresses. Workers with signs of heat exhaustion should be taken to a health clinic or ER for treatment. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if not treated.

Heat Cramps: Are muscle pains caused by the loss of body salts and fluid due to sweating. Workers must replace fluid loss by drinking water or electrolyte replacement liquids .

Heat Rash: is the most common problem with hot work environments and is caused by sweating. It appears as red cluster of pimples on the neck, upper chest, groin, or elbow creases. The best treatment is to provide a cooler, less humid work environment.

One thing to remember with each of these types of heat illness, is that if not observed and treated early a lesser illness could become a more serious illness. Therefore monitoring for and understanding symptoms is very important in protecting workers from heat related illness.

What Is OSHA Looking for from Employers?

  • Written Heat-Related Illness and Prevention Program. This program should address heat hazards, symptoms of heat-related illness, and emergency response plans.
  • Emergency planning and response plans must be in place. What to do if heat illness symptoms occur. Who to call and how to provide emergency care until help arrives
  • Training provided in a language and manner workers understand, including information on health effects, symptoms, and how to prevent and response the heat illness.
  • Designated a person to oversee the heat stress program. This person must be trained in the hazards, physiological responses to heat, and controls. This person will oversee and monitor the program
  • Hazard identification involves recognizing heat hazards and the risk to workers due to high temperature, humidity, sun exposure, etc.
  • Monitoring for heat illness symptoms and establishing a system to report potential issues. Using the buddy system will assist supervisors and workers to monitor and watch for signs of heat illness.
  • Water Rest Shade. Water is made available. Workers ae encouraged to drink water in small amounts frequently. Fully shaded or air-conditioned areas are available for rest and cooling down.
  • Acclimatization is when workers are given time to build tolerance to working in the heat. Workload and exposure are gradually increased while taking frequent water and rest breaks. Acclimatization may take up to 14 days or longer and depends on the individual and the work environment.
  • Modified work schedules may reduce worker exposure to heat. Increasing work/rest cycles, starting work earlier, rescheduling physically demanding work, and stopping work are all methods to modify work schedules to limit or prevent exposure of workers to high heat hazards.

It is important for employers to monitor and be aware of heat related illness in the workplace. Unfortunately we work in a hot humid area of the country and these heat related issues may arise at some point. These topics have been discussed in the past and many of you already have methods in-place to address some of the hazards and issues presented above. With the introduction of the OSHA National Emphasis Program Related to Heat Illness Prevention, this presents a great opportunity to use the guidelines and information provided by OSHA to reevaluate and formalize a Heat-Related Illness Prevention Program at your gin.


Three-Day Safety Seminar Scheduled

We wanted to let everyone know that we’ve scheduled a Three-Day Safety seminar for early August in Tifton. The cost is $300 per person and the sessions are targeted at front line supervisors that will be conducting training and not necessarily managers. If you know you’d like to sign up, here’s the link. If you’d like more detail read on.


While cotton gins are considered Agriculture in the eyes of OSHA, warehouses are not. OSHA requires all lift truck drivers in cotton warehouses to be properly trained as part their safety program. Prior to the pandemic, the Safety and Insurance committee recommended that we hold Train-the-trainer programs for those members that wanted to have Trainers on staff. We had held a couple of them in 2019 with good success

We contacted the company we’ve been working with on these trainings and worked with them to expand the program. They developed a Three-Day Program that covers several general safety topics and includes the Train-the-Trainer for lift trucks and elevated work platforms.

Since this program was developed relatively recently, we will only hold one such program this year but plan on doing at least one and possibly 2 next year based on participation.

This program is targeted at the front-line supervisors and trainers that have the most influence on the crews. These are the ones conducting the training either formally or on-the-job as most of our ‘training’ tends to be. This is not a purely “rules and regs” but a practical ‘why’ kind of training on many general safety topics but it includes the Train-the-Trainer on lift trucks and powered elevated work platforms. Participants will leave with the knowledge and materials to train their own employees in accordance with OSHA’s regs.

Space is limited to 25 participants. Lunch will be provided for two days. The session will be at the Micro-Gin at the University of Georgia in Tifton August 9-11. The address is in the EventBrite sign-up. Please follow this link above for registration or click here for more details.


Ladder Safety

I read an article earlier in the week that mentioned it was Ladder Safety Month. This got me to thinking about gins and safety training. Most gins tend to focus on a pre-season safety training once the full crew has arrived to begin the new gin season, but what about the year around employees. When you break it down most gins spend 3-4 months each year ginning cotton, and that tends to be the main focus of safety training. What about the other 8-9 months of the year when the tasks being performed are not directly related to the ginning of cotton, how are you training employees to perform these tasks safely? While this article will focus mainly on ladder safety there will be links provided that cover other topics related to off-season safety.

Statistics show there are around 130,000 injuries and 300 or so deaths each year related to ladders. Ladder usage seems like a simple thing and something we all do on a regular basis, but the question is do we do is correctly and safely. The main points that lead to injuries are improper ladder for the task, damaged ladders, and improper technique.

Ladder Selection:

  • Work environment; hazards like electricity, uneven surfaces, or obstructions can affect the choose of ladder to be used.
  • Work length required; never stand on the top cap on a step ladder or use the top 3 rungs on and extension ladder.
  • Duty rating; This is the total amount of weight the ladder will support. This includes the worker and any tools or materials that the ladder will be supporting.

Ladder Inspection:

  • Are all parts of the ladder in good working condition? Look for broken or damaged rungs, rails, feet, and/or braces.
  • Is the ladder clean? Look for grease, oil, or other debris that could make the rungs slippery.
  • Confirm the area the ladder will be placed is level, sturdy, and free from hazards.

Ladder Use:

  • Be aware of what you are doing and the area around you.
  • Maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times. Use a towline, tool belt, or helper to convey tools and materials.
  • Climb slowly and deliberately while always facing the ladder.
  • Keep your body centered between the rails at all times. Never overreach or lean to the sides while working from a ladder.
  • Never attempt to move a ladder while standing on it.

I cannot cover all aspects of ladder safety in this article, but did cover some of the most important. Please take a look at some of the links provided to get additional information concerning ladder safety.

OSHA Fact Sheet for extension ladders:

OSHA Fact sheet for Step ladders:

Although this article focuses on ladder safety, take this opportunity of consider other tasks that are being performed in the off-season and make sure you are training your employees to perform these tasks safely. There are several short training lessons covering a wide range of topics provided in chapter 5 of your Safety Reference Manual. If you would like additional information or have questions please contact me at andy@southern-southeastern.org.

Safety Alerts from Texas

In the past week or two Texas has had some serious accidents. From what we understand they all could have been prevented by properly locking out the power. We’re in the middle of gin season for most of our area. This is when we tend to let our guard down. Please don’t let that happen in your gins. Take some time to review the SAFETY ALERT below and share with your employees. The ALERT is in English and Spanish. While we haven’t seen any of this sort of injury this year in the Southeast and we pray we don’t, we all need to pay attention to the little things. Lets all have a safe gin season. Click on the images to download the PDF.


Georgia Safety Round Tables in the age of Covid

Josh White, AgriTrust of Georgia leads a discussion on tarp rollers.

The AgriTrust of Georgia and Southeastern Cotton Ginners have collaborated on “Safety Round Tables” since 2012. Normally, 200+ gin employees from around the state of Georgia come together to learn from each other. The point of the Round Tables has been to facilitate exchange of ideas on how they handle certain scenarios in a gin.

This year, we thought it would be not so good to get together in person so we brought a handful of ginners together to do something similar. Lots of hand sanitizer was dispersed and a social distancing was maintained where possible through most of a day’s worth of filming.

The final product will be distributed to the ginners of Georgia and affidavits will be sent back to AgriTrust for their credit. We will forward these names to the National Cotton Ginners Association for Continuing Education credits for Certified Ginners.

If you’re a Georgia gin, watch for these videos to show up in coming weeks. We are pleased to help the AgriTrust put this event on for the ninth time.

Georgia Gin Safety Round Tables Well Attended

The AgriTrust of Georgia and the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association again put on two Ginners Safety Round Tables. This year the sessions were held at the Heart of Georgia Gin in Hawkinsville and Sconyers Gin in Sycamore.

Topics covered in this year’s Round Tables included Fork Lift and Warehouse demonstrations by MacKinnon Equipment Services, Personal Protective Equipment by Josh White with the AgriTrust, Maintenance and Off-Season Repair safety led by Jackson Hammack (Early County Gin) at Hawkinsville and Lupe Alonzo (Mobley Gin) and Rick Riley (Sconyers Gin and Whse) at Sconyers, and two Lock-out Sessions with Kirby Bailey of Safe Workforce Development and Andy Knowlton of the Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association. Additionally, the Continue reading