OSHA Is Taking Action on Heat Hazards—And AIHA Is Here to Help
In the first week of May, OSHA hosted a virtual public stakeholder meeting focused on the agency’s activities to protect workers from heat-related hazards. This half-day-long meeting gave stakeholders an opportunity to learn about and provide feedback on OSHA’s various efforts to protect workers from heat-related hazards. Mark Ames, AIHA’s head of government relations, attended this virtual meeting and delivered AIHA’s comments on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings.
In his address, Ames noted that the responsibility of preventing heat injuries and illnesses doesn’t fall only on the shoulders of one agency but is shared across different stakeholders, from government agencies to businesses to communities. Hence, a coordinated approach is vital to protecting workers and their communities.
The importance of raising public awareness about the dangers of heat hazards was another point stressed by Ames. “A robust heat safety public awareness, education, and outreach program, including events such as this, will be vital to protecting workers from heat-related injuries,” he said.
Ames’ participation in this virtual meeting follows a 22-page letter (PDF) written in January, addressed to Douglas L. Parker, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. This letter detailed AIHA’s feedback to OSHA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor settings. In AIHA’s comments, the association agreed that heat is a serious occupational hazard and that it is necessary for OSHA to issue a standard on protecting indoor and outdoor workers from heat-related hazards. This standard, AIHA asserts, should utilize the hierarchy of controls, be based on site-specific criteria, and provide enough flexibility of implementation that it can protect workers without preventing essential work from being done. Additionally, the standard should be based on some defined criteria that can be measured with instruments, such as a set temperature in combination with relative humidity (for example, the wet-bulb globe temperature) or a national source (for example, the National Weather Service local forecast), the association states. But most importantly, AIHA asserts that whatever environmental criteria are selected to trigger the standard’s requirements should be made clear so that all employers, regardless of their size or level of technical expertise, can readily interpret the standard and take appropriate actions.
In the meantime, while the standard is in development, AIHA is taking action to protect workers and their communities from heat-related injuries and illnesses by working with the Department of Labor and other government agencies and legislators throughout the country. AIHA also recently created the new Thermal Stress Working Group, which is currently recruiting members, focused on developing new tools and educational materials for thermal stress and occupational heat exposure. The size of the working group is not limited and being an AIHA member is not a requirement. Learn more or sign up through AIHA’s call for volunteers.
If you’re interested in educational content related to thermal stress, AIHA also has you covered. See what we have to offer in our thermal stressors content library.