August 3, 2023

Heat Wave Prompts OSHA to Intensify Enforcement Actions

OSHA will increase inspections and intensify other enforcement actions in industries where workers are exposed to heat hazards, the agency announced last week as a heat wave affected large portions of the United States. OSHA’s actions will focus enforcement efforts in geographic areas and industries with the most vulnerable workers, a press release explains. Industries with workers at high risk of exposure to heat include construction and agriculture. But extreme heat can be deadly to indoor workers as well as those working outdoors, OSHA warns in a new hazard alert (PDF) that emphasizes employers’ responsibility for protecting workers from heat illness.

These new enforcement actions will “fully implement the agency’s National Emphasis Program on heat,” OSHA says. The NEP was first announced in April 2022 and is intended to protect U.S. workers from heat illnesses and injuries. The program aims to improve OSHA’s enforcement and compliance efforts related to heat and involves the agency proactively initiating inspections in more than 70 high-risk industries when the National Weather Service issues heat warnings or advisories in local areas.

OSHA is working toward a proposed standard to address occupational heat exposure. The agency launched the rulemaking process for a heat standard in October 2021 with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) covering both outdoor and indoor work settings. The ANPRM 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. As part of the next step in the rulemaking process, OSHA seeks representatives from small businesses and local government entities who might be affected by such a standard to participate in upcoming discussions and provide feedback regarding the potential effects of a heat standard on small businesses.

More information about OSHA’s efforts related to heat can be found in the agency’s 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.