OSHA Expands Measures to Protect Workers from Extreme Heat

By William Atkinson | Sep 20, 2021
Image by OpenIcons from Pixabay

To combat the hazards associated with extreme heat exposure, OSHA is in the process of expanding its efforts to address heat-related illnesses.

Specifically, the agency plans to:

  • Implement an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards
  • Establish a National Emphasis Program for heat inspections
  • Form a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group, which will provide a better understanding of challenges and will identify and share best practices that can protect workers from heat-related hazards
  • Initiate a rulemaking process to develop a formal workplace heat standard

OSHA recently implemented an intervention and enforcement initiative to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths while working in hot environments. The initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80°F.

As relates to the National Emphasis Program, OSHA is working to establish such a program for heat hazard cases. The program will target high-risk industries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections. The 2022 National Emphasis Program will build on the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses in OSHA’s Region VI, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

And, as part of OSHA’s enforcement initiative, OSHA area directors across the nation will institute the following:

  • “Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an on-site investigation where possible.
  • Instruct compliance safety and health officers during their travels to job sites, to conduct an intervention (providing the agency’s heat poster/wallet card, discuss the importance of easy access to cool water, cooling areas and acclimatization) or opening an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions.
  • Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where work site conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.”

Regarding an anticipated heat standard, in October 2021, OSHA will take a significant step toward a federal heat standard to ensure protections in workplaces across the country. OSHA will begin the process by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings.

“The advance notice will initiate a comment period allowing OSHA to gather diverse perspectives and technical expertise on topics including heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers,” according to the agency.

About The Author

ATKINSON has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact him at [email protected]

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