OSHA announced on September 20th, 2021 that it will be initiating enhanced measures to better protect workers in hot environments and reduce the dangers of exposure to ambient heat. These measures include implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, developing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat inspections, and developing a mandatory workplace heat standard.
The OSHA initiative applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in the general, construction, agriculture and maritime industries where potential heat-related hazards exist.
The new initiative prioritizes heat-related work activity interventions and inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. On days when a recognized heat temperature can result in increased risk for heat-related illnesses, OSHA will also increase enforcement efforts. In addition, the initiative encourages employers to proactively implement intervention methods on heat priority days, including:
- Providing employees with regular breaks in the shade to drink water and rest;
- Training workers on how to identify the common symptoms of heat-related illness and react when a worker presents with them; and
- Taking periodic measurements to evaluate workers’ heat exposure.
Employers should review current enforcement initiatives and continue to monitor OSHA communications for the development of the mandatory workplace heat standard.
October 2021 OSHA is expected to publish a proposed rule for a mandatory worker heat protection standard in outdoor and indoor work settings.
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