June 7, 2022Share
OSHA Launches New Program Focused on Heat Safety
On April 12, 2022, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced a National Emphasis Program (the Program) focused on protecting workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses in outdoor and indoor workplaces in high-risk industries.
As part of the Program, OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO) will proactively inspect high-risk industry worksites for heat-related hazards when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. This means that OSHA can launch a heat-related inspection before workers suffer preventable injuries or illnesses and without receiving an injury report, complaint, or referral.
On “heat priority days”, when the heat index is expected to be 80°F or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job. In addition, inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted by the Program.
The National Emphasis Program on heat hazards went into effect on April 8, 2022, and will remain in effect for three (3) years unless canceled or extended by a superseding directive.
The Program targets “over 70 high-risk industries” with the most exposures to heat-related hazards, illnesses, and deaths, based on the following criteria:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics data on incidence rates of heat-related illnesses and number of employee days away from work rate;
- Elevated numbers of fatalities or hospitalizations reported by employers to OSHA; and
- Highest number of heat-related general duty clause 5(a)(1) violations and Hazard Alert Letters over a 5-year period (1/1/2017 thru 12/31/2021), or highest number of OSHA heat inspections since 2017.
During heat-related inspections, CSHO’s may perform a number of duties, including:
- Review OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports for any entries indicating heat-related illness(es);
- Review any records of heat-related emergency room visits and/or ambulance transport, even if hospitalizations did not occur;
- Interview workers for symptoms of headache, dizziness, fainting, dehydration, or other conditions that may indicate heat-related illnesses, including both new employees and any employees who have recently returned to work;
- Determine if the employer has a heat illness and injury program addressing heat exposure;
- Document conditions relevant to heat-related hazards and identify activities relevant to heat-related hazards.
Evaluating an Employer’s Heat Illness and Injury Prevention Program
OSHA will consider the following factors to determine whether an employer has a heat illness and injury program addressing heat exposure:
- Is there a written program?
- How did the employer monitor ambient temperature(s) and levels of work exertion at the worksite?
- Was there unlimited cool water that was easily accessible to the employees?
- Did the employer require additional breaks for hydration?
- Were there scheduled rest breaks?
- Was there access to a shaded area?
- Did the employer provide time for acclimatization of new and returning workers?
- Was a “buddy” system in place on hot days?
- Were administrative controls used (earlier start times, and employee/job rotation) to limit heat exposures?
- Did the employer provide training on heat illness signs, how to report signs and symptoms, first aid, how to contact emergency personnel, prevention, and the importance of hydration?
Click here to read the fact sheet on OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on heat hazards.
In preparation for these potential inspections, employers, especially those in high-risk industries such as construction, should act now to ensure their current policies and procedures keep their workers safe and adequately address heat-related hazards.
Employers should thoroughly evaluate their worksites to assess potential heat hazards. A heat illness and injury prevention plan should be implemented, and all employees should be properly trained on.
If you need heat safety compliance assistance or help with other OSHA or employment matters, please contact Kelley Kronenberg today for an initial consultation.
Kelley Kronenberg is a national full-service law firm with a leading Construction and Labor & Employment Practice Group. Our integrated team of attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients in an efficient, timely, and cost-effective manner.
DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a courtesy and is intended for the general information of the matters discussed above and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Neither Kelley Kronenberg, nor its individual attorneys or staff, are responsible for errors, omissions and/or typographical errors – always seek competent legal counsel.