September 23, 2021

OSHA to Launch Rulemaking Process for Workplace Standard on Heat

New measures to protect workers from heat hazards announced by OSHA on Monday include an upcoming advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on heat injury and illness prevention. The agency says the ANPR will be issued in October and cover both outdoor and indoor work settings. OSHA intends to use the ANPR to gather stakeholder feedback and technical expertise on relevant topics such as heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers from heat hazards.

OSHA also plans to form a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group and launch a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat hazard cases. The goal of the new work group will be to improve understanding of challenges related to heat hazards and identify best practices for protecting workers. Earlier this month, OSHA established a new enforcement initiative to prioritize heat-related interventions and agency inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 F.

OSHA intends to complete the data review for its new NEP in time for it to take effect before summer 2022. The agency plans for the new NEP to build on an existing Regional Emphasis Program for heat illnesses, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. NEPs are temporary OSHA programs that focus the agency’s resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries identified using inspection, injury, and illness data; NIOSH reports; and peer-reviewed literature. Other recent NEPs cover COVID-19, crystalline silica hazards, and trenching and excavation work.

OSHA’s new enforcement initiative, which was established Sept. 1, applies to indoor and outdoor workplaces in general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime where workers are potentially exposed to heat-related hazards. The initiative instructs OSHA area directors to prioritize on-site inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals, and employer-reported illnesses over phone or fax investigations where possible. The inspection guidance for heat-related hazards also directs compliance safety and health officers to conduct an intervention or open an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions. As part of the enforcement initiative, OSHA will expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards in cases where work site conditions or other evidence indicates that these hazards may be present.

More information on OSHA’s heat-related activities can be found in the agency’s press release.