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OSHA Seeking Worker Heat Standard Input

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2023


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging small business owners and local government representatives to discuss the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.

According to the release, OSHA is 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.

As part of the process, OSHA is holding Small Business Advocacy Review Panel meetings this summer to gather views on the potential effects of a heat standard on small businesses.

The panel will reportedly be comprised of representatives from OSHA, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

OSHA adds that, while the panel welcomes representatives from any industry, the group is interested particularly in collecting input from industries the agency expects would be most affected by a heat standard. These industries include agriculture, construction, landscaping, manufacturing, oil and gas, warehousing, waste management, utilities and food service, specifically in restaurant kitchens.

The meetings will be held in teleconferences where small businesses can share concerns and discuss current practices for protecting their employees from heat-related illnesses and injuries. The panel is also seeking input on how new heat regulations might impact their workplace operations or local business communities.

© iStock.com / Double_Vision
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging small business owners and local government representatives to discuss the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.
© iStock.com / Double_Vision

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging small business owners and local government representatives to discuss the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.

The discussions will be open to the public. Interested parties can find more information here.

About ANPRM

Originally published on Oct. 27, 2021, in the Federal Register, the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings rulemaking seeks to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat. In addition, the rulemaking also seeks to obtain additional information about the extent and nature of hazardous heat in the workplace and the nature and effectiveness of interventions and controls used to prevent heat-related injury and illness.

“While heat illness is largely preventable and commonly underreported, thousands of workers are sickened each year by workplace heat exposure, and in some cases, heat exposure can be fatal,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Frederick said in a press release at the time.

“The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings is an important part of our multipronged initiative to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat.”

The ANPRM included more than 100 questions to help guide stakeholders during the comment period. Specifically, the agency was seeking to receive input on heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning and exposure monitoring.

Then, that December of that year, OSHA extended the comment period on the ANPRM to give stakeholders more time to review the ANPRM and collect information and data necessary for comment.

OSHA Actions

According to the latest release, OSHA has already taken several actions apart from the rulemaking to protect workers from the dangers of excess heat in the workplace. This includes:

  • Development of an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards;
  • Launch of a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections;
  • Creation of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health's Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to better understand challenges, and identify and share best practices to protect workers; and
  • Launch of a Heat Illness Prevention campaign to educate employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat.

In September 2021, OSHA announced plans to better combat hazards associated with extreme heat exposure—both indoors and outdoors—through newly enhanced, expanded measures to protect workers.

The announcement followed a statement released by President Joe Biden on mobilizing the Administration to address extreme heat. The measure is part of the Biden-Harris administration's interagency effort and commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience and environmental justice.

The newly established initiative will prioritize heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The program is slated to target high-risk industries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections and will be built upon the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses in OSHA's Region VI, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

The Administration also plans to form 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.

As stated, the initiative will apply to both indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, as well as 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 plans to increase enforcement efforts.

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Employers are also encouraged to implement intervention methods on heat priority days proactively, including regularly taking breaks for water, rest, shade, training workers on how to identify common symptoms and what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring, as well as taking periodic measurements to determine workers' heat exposure.

OSHA Area Directors across the nation will institute the following:

  • 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 (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; and
  • Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.

The launch of a National Emphasis Program to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injuries was announced in April last year. Reported to be the first of its kind, the new enforcement program will ensure that OSHA conducts heat-related workplace inspections in an effort to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

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The press release issued by the DOL went on to explain that as the National Emphasis Program works to immediately improve enforcement and compliance efforts, there are ongoing efforts to establish a heat illness prevention rule.

While that long-term work continues, the program will initiate inspections in over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area.

However, on days when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists are to engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance. Regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP, inspectors will also look for an address heat hazards.

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OSHA has also developed a free and confidential health and safety consulting program, which has been made available to small- and medium-sized businesses working to develop strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.

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Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Department of Labor; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Heat-related injury; OSHA; OSHA; Program/Project Management; Regulations; Safety; Workers


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