Jun 28, 2023
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA intends to address heat-related hazards in the workplace. The agency is developing guidelines for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings that will apply to various industries.
To back the initiative and enhance workplace safety, OSHA seeks feedback from sectors often exposed to heat, like agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. This action is in response to an increase in heat-related illnesses and fatalities and the ongoing need to enhance workplace safety.
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OSHA Initiative to Protect Workers from Heat-Related Injuries
According to the US Department of Labor, OSHA will convene the Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) in the summer of 2023 to develop a potential standard known as Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. This initiative is in accordance with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA).
The agency seeks valuable feedback from small businesses, small local government entities, and nonprofit entities that may be affected by the standard. To facilitate this engagement, OSHA will convene virtual panels where representatives from these entities, known as Small Entity Representatives (SERs), can participate and share their perspectives.
The SBAR Panel will consist of members from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy (SBA), OSHA, and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). These panels will offer a platform for SERs to discuss potential options for the heat-specific standard, considering various elements like programmatic approaches, scope, hazard identification, prevention measures, emergency response procedures, worker training, and recordkeeping.
Background of OSHA Standard for Workers on Heat-Related Injuries
OSHA first published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on October 27, 2021, on the Federal Register. The ANPRM marks the commencement of the rulemaking process, inviting stakeholders and the public to share valuable insights and technical expertise on various issues pertinent to the potential heat-specific standard.
The agency asked for feedback from industries most likely affected by heat-related hazards, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, oil, and gas. It also encouraged other sectors, such as transportation, retail trade, information, finance, insurance, real estate, healthcare, education, and nonprofits, to contribute their insights.
The comment period for the ANPRM, which concluded on January 26, 2022, has garnered 965 unique comments from various stakeholders. These comments, alongside academic literature, best practices, and expert inputs, have been crucial in shaping OSHA’s considerations for developing a comprehensive and robust standard.
OSHA Holds Public Meeting to Discuss Heat-Related Hazards
An SHRM report says that OSHA held a public meeting on May 3, 2022, to discuss its ongoing activities about heat-related hazards. During this meeting, OSHA highlighted its Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, compliance assistance endeavors, and enforcement initiatives.
The primary objective was to notify the public about related initiatives and gather essential feedback from stakeholders and the regulated community to design a proposed rule that accurately reflects the needs of workers and employers. The meeting also emphasized the importance of employers proactively addressing heat-related hazards and OSHA aiming to increase heat-related inspections significantly. The focus will be on heat priority days when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees and when the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a heat advisory or warning.
To support employers in preventing heat illness injuries, OSHA suggested various measures, including heat illness prevention plans, training, acclimatization, provision of water and rest breaks, using shade and cool rest areas, and implementing a buddy system.
OSHA’s Current Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Efforts
OSHA has undertaken several other measures to protect workers from the perils of excess heat in the workplace. These measures include the following:
- Developing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards
- Launching a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections
- Establishing the Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH)
The OSHA website also hosts information for heat hazard recognition to help prevent heat-related illnesses. These collective efforts aim to understand better the challenges workers face and to identify best practices to ensure their protection.
Industries Most Affected by Heat-Related Hazards
Workers in agriculture, construction, landscaping, manufacturing, oil and gas, and various other sectors face heightened risks due to excessive heat exposure. Notably, OSHA has shown particular interest in the participation of small businesses and entities in these industries to ensure their unique concerns are adequately represented and addressed.
As industries face the mounting challenges of extreme heat, this latest move from OSHA on workers’ protection from heat-related injuries promises to promote safer work environments. Hopefully, the initiative further reduces the toll of heat-related illnesses and fatalities in the workplace.