June 22, 2023

OSHA Panel to Discuss Potential Heat Standard's Effects on Small Businesses

OSHA plans to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panel this summer to discuss its potential standard to address occupational heat exposure, which is currently in development. The agency seeks representatives from small businesses and local government entities who might be affected by the standard to participate in upcoming discussions and provide feedback regarding the potential effects of a heat standard on small businesses. Industries from which OSHA seeks small-entity representatives include agriculture, forestry, and fishing; commercial and restaurant kitchens; construction, telecommunications, and utilities; manufacturing; material handling, transportation, and warehousing; oil and gas; and waste management. These industries are among those that OSHA expects would be most affected by a standard to prevent heat injury and illness in outdoor and indoor work settings.

During the SBAR process, OSHA intends to present small-entity representatives with “potential options [it] has identified for various elements of a heat-specific standard.” Representatives will be asked to provide input on how OSHA’s proposed measures might affect workplace operations or local business communities.

The SBAR panel will also consider topics such as heat hazard identification and assessment, prevention and control measures, medical treatment and heat-related emergency response procedures, training, and recordkeeping.

“A standard specific to heat-related injury and illness prevention would more clearly set forth employer obligations and the measures necessary to more effectively protect employees from hazardous heat,” OSHA’s website states. “The ultimate goal is to prevent or reduce the number of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities caused by exposure to hazardous heat.”

The upcoming SBAR panel teleconferences are among the next steps in OSHA’s rulemaking process, which was launched in October 2021 with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM). The ANPRM on heat injury and illness prevention, which covered both outdoor and indoor work settings, initiated a comment period for OSHA to gather information on issues to consider in developing the standard. According to the agency, stakeholders submitted more than 900 unique comments in response to the ANPRM. These comments were among the resources OSHA used to develop the elements of a heat standard that the agency intends to present during the upcoming panel discussions.

Those who are interested in participating in the SBAR panel as small-entity representatives should contact OSHA or the Small Business Administration. Contact information for the appropriate individuals at these agencies as well as additional details about the process can be found on OSHA’s website. Further details are available in an agency press release.

Related: Articles published in The Synergist in April 2016 and April 2020 discuss protecting workers in hot environments and critical factors for heat stress assessment and prevention, respectively. An article published in the June/July 2022 issue of the magazine focuses on reducing heat burden from personal protective equipment and other factors.