DOL Proposes Extreme Heat Protection Rule

TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2024


A new proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to protect about 36 million workers in indoor and outdoor work settings from the health risks of extreme heat.

According to the department’s press release, dozens of workers die and thousands suffer illnesses related to hazardous heat exposure every year—most of which are preventable. Now, record-breaking temperatures across the country have increased the risks that people face on the job.

“Every worker should come home safe and healthy at the end of the day, which is why the Biden-Harris administration is taking this significant step to protect workers from the dangers posed by extreme heat,” said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su.

“As the most pro-worker administration in history, we are committed to ensuring that those doing difficult work in some of our economy’s most critical sectors are valued and kept safe in the workplace.”

The proposed rule would reportedly require employers to develop an injury and illness prevention plan to control heat hazards in workplaces affected by excessive heat. This plan would require employers to evaluate heat risks and implement requirements for drinking water, rest breaks and control of indoor heat, among other policies.

The department adds that it would also require a plan to protect new or returning workers unaccustomed to working in high heat conditions.

Ezra Bailey / Getty Images
A new proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to protect about 36 million workers in indoor and outdoor work settings from the health risks of extreme heat.
Ezra Bailey / Getty Images

A new proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to protect about 36 million workers in indoor and outdoor work settings from the health risks of extreme heat.

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“Workers all over the country are passing out, suffering heat stroke and dying from heat exposure from just doing their jobs, and something must be done to protect them,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.

“Today’s proposal is an important next step in the process to receive public input to craft a ‘win-win’ final rule that protects workers while being practical and workable for employers.”

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Employers would also need to provide training, have procedures to respond if a worker is experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness, and take immediate action to help a worker experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat emergency.

The DOL says that the public is encouraged to submit written comments on the rule once it is published in The Federal Register. Additionally, the agency anticipates a public hearing after the close of the written comment period.

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Last month, the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urged small business owners and local government representatives to discuss the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses. OSHA said it was developing a potential standard for workplaces—in which the agency has jurisdiction—to prevent heat illness and injury in outdoor and indoor environments in general industry and in the construction, maritime and agriculture industries.

Until the new standard is finalized, the agency will reportedly continue to conduct heat-related inspections under its National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards. Since its launch, OSHA has conducted more than 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.

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Launched in 2022 and the first of its kind, the program inspects workplaces with the highest exposures to heat-related hazards proactively to prevent workers from suffering injury, illness or death needlessly.

Tagged categories: Department of Labor; Government; Hazards; Health and safety; Heat-related injury; Industry News; Labor; Regulations; Safety; Workers


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