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  • Writer's pictureJosh Schultz, Esq.

OSHA Announces National Emphasis Program on Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards

On April 12, 2022 Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, announced a National Emphasis Program ("Heat NEP") on indoor and outdoor heat hazards at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia. The program will lead to additional inspections in high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area.

On days when the heat index is 80 F or higher, employers can expect visits from OSHA inspectors who will specifically look for and address heat hazards during inspections.

The Heat NEP incorporates and expands on a September 1, 2021 memo to employers recommending a combination of intervention methods during high heat days, including encouraging or mandating that employees regularly take breaks for rest, shade, and supplying water. The September 2021 memo also stated that employees should train employees on heat-related illnesses, how to spot common symptoms, and what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring. The memo instructs OSHA inspectors to issue citations under the General Duty Clause (“GDC”), Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, where the employer’s procedures fail to protect workers from heat-related illnesses are inadequate. Additionally, OSHA may cite the recordkeeping regulation at 29 CFR §1904.7(b)(5) for failure to report heat illness or injuries requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.

The Heat NEP comes on the heels of OSHA's push for a “Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings” rule. OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on October 27, 2021 for such a rule, and accepted comments on the proposed rule until January 26, 2022.

OSHA's proposed heat rule will likely approximate California OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention

Standard. California's rule requires that employers perform the following:

  • Train all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.

  • Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8 ounce glasses, of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.

  • Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

  • Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the standard.

Between 2015 and 2020, Federal OSHA conducted approximately 200 heat-related hazard inspections each year, which included approximately 15 heat-related fatality inspections annually.

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