OSHA announced on April 12, 2022, that it has launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) as part of multilayered approach to protect workers from heat exposure. These efforts are part of a larger, interagency Biden-Harris administration effort to protect workers and communities from extreme heat and rising temperatures resulting from climate change. Currently, OSHA enforces heat hazard violations through the General Duty Clause, but they are looking for a permanent standard that would apply to both outdoor and indoor workplaces. Until a permanent standard is decided upon, OSHA will focus on heat hazards with the NEP which is slated to remain in effect until April 2025.
OSHA will send Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO) out to conduct heat hazard inspections in more that 70 industries that have been deemed “high-risk”. These 70 industries are widespread, including ranching and farming, various manufacturing industries, construction, warehousing, and nursing care facilities amongst many others. CSHO will inspect worksites proactively, when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or warning for that local area. On days where the heat index reaches 80°F or higher, direct outreach to stakeholders such as unions and safety organizations will be performed to ensure that workers are safe on the job. Additionally, inspectors will “look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP.
Guidance from OSHA states that CHSOs should review OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports and interview workers to try and spot symptoms of heat illness as part of their inspections. CSHO should also interview employers to determine if they have a heat illness and injury prevention program in place and evaluate its efficacy. Effective prevention strategies may include increased ventilation, providing shade, training, hydration, and rest breaks. To learn more about the symptoms of heat illness, please visit our blog, Worker Heat Health and Safety.
“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a press release. “These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers. This enforcement program is another step toward our goal of a federal heat standard. Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation.”
A public stakeholder meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, to discuss the effort to protect workers from heat hazards.