By Dr. Anthony Policastro

When we had field exercises in the Air Force, I had one rule as the Commanding Officer of our people out in the field. They were dressed in fatigues. They sometimes had to wear chemical gear over the fatigues. The outside temperature was often elevated.

One of the things that they often forgot to do was hydrate themselves. Therefore, every hour on the hour, I would make everyone drink from their canteen. It was my way of doing two things.

The first was to keep them from having the effects of heat stress while out in the field. The second was to get them into the habit of frequent drinking of water.

The same thing should be true in the civilian world. Those workers also spend time in the heat. The current heat wave is a good example of that.

Heat stress deaths occur in about 40 individuals every year. That is not a large number. However, each of those deaths is preventable. That also does not include other heat related medical issues that occur but are not deadly.

The onus of having workers take appropriate fluid breaks falls squarely on the employer. Only three states (California, Washington and Oregon) have laws requiring heat breaks for outdoor workers.

The state of Texas just passed a law limiting localities from imposing heat breaks on workers in their areas. That means that cities like Dallas and Austin which required heat breaks for 10 minutes every four hours could no longer do so.

Texas already accounts for about 10 percent of heat related deaths in workers. That is five times the expected number if you divide the 400 deaths by 50 states.

OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) has no standardized heat standard. Therefore, employers do not violate any formal rule if they choose to literally work their employees to death.

If someone works for a company that has them working outside in the heat without heat breaks, they might want to choose another employer. Their current one is not making them drink from their canteen once an hour.