On Oct. 26, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it will be issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings, which will begin the process to consider a heat-specific workplace rule. The ANPRM was officially published in the federal register on Oct. 27.
The ANPRM states, “OSHA is initiating rulemaking to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat and is interested in obtaining 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. This ANPRM provides an overview of the problem of heat stress in the workplace and of measures that have been taken to prevent it. This ANPRM also seeks information on issues that OSHA can consider in developing the standard, including the scope of the standard and the types of controls that might be required.
The public will have the opportunity to submit comments on the ANPRM and provide expertise on topics such as heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning and exposure monitoring through Dec. 27. ABC is currently reviewing the heat illness ANPRM and plans to submit comments on behalf of its contractor members.
ABC strongly believes that employers must take steps to ensure that employees are protected from extreme heat. Planning for severe weather conditions is an integral part of the pre-planning stages of a construction project, as evidenced in ABC’s Safety Performance Report, an annual study that guides our members on effective planning and safety measures that save lives. ABC continuously issues guidance to members regarding the hazards of harsh weather conditions and appropriate measures to protect employees, our industry’s most valuable asset.
ABC members can access this guidance on the abc.org Emergency Preparedness and Safety Resources page.
In a Sept. 20 press release, as part of an interagency Biden administration effort to protect workers from the hazards associated with extreme heat, indoors and out, OSHA announced the following actions:
- 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, 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 stated 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 jobsites, 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. Additional information on OSHA’s actions can be found in Newsline.