DOL Announces Actions to Reduce Heat-Related Illness

As part of an interagency Biden administration effort to protect workers from the hazards associated with extreme heat, indoors and out, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration announced the following actions in a Sept. 20 press release:

  • Issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. OSHA is expected to issue the rulemaking in October, which will include a comment period for the public to offer input.
  • Implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards to prevent and protect employees from serious heat-related illnesses and deaths while working in hazardous, hot indoor or outdoor environments. The initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers will be encouraged to implement proactive interventions, such as water, rest and shade, and other important prevention measures such as acclimatization of new or returning workers.
  • Developing a National Emphasis Program on heat hazard cases, which will target high-risk industries and focus agency resources and staff time on heat inspections. The 2022 National Emphasis Program will build on the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses in OSHA’s Region VI, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Forming 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.

The press release also states that 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.
  • Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.

The OSHA initiative applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture and maritime where potential heat-related hazards exist.

For additional information, see ABC general counsel Littler Mendelson’s analysis, OSHA Announces Increased Focus on Heat-Related Hazards

ABC National will continue to monitor the above-referenced actions and plans to offer input on behalf of our contractor members and provide updates in the Beltway Blueprint as well as Newsline.