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OSHA expands measures to protect workers from indoor, outdoor heat hazards

Proposed rulemaking, enforcement initiative, NEP in the works

Posted September 24, 2021

To combat the hazards associated with extreme heat exposure – both indoors and outdoors – OSHA will enhance and expand its measures to address heat-related illnesses.

Specifically, the agency is:

  • implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards
    • This applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime where potential heat-related hazards exist. On days when a recognized heat temperature can result in increased risks of heat-related illnesses, OSHA will increase enforcement efforts.
  • developing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat inspections
    • The NEP will target high-risk industries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections. The 2022 NEP 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.
  • launching a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard
    • OSHA intends to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in October 2021 on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. A comment period will be initiated, allowing OSHA to gather information on various topics including heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers.
  • forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide better understanding of challenges and to identify and share best practices to protect workers.

OSHA Area Directors across the country will:

  • Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals, and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an onsite investigation where possible.
  • Instruct compliance safety and health officers, during their travels to job sites, to conduct an intervention (i.e., providing OSHA’s heat poster/wallet card, discussing 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 worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.

This article was written by Rachel Krubsack of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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