Today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a Press Release announcing OSHA’s intention to take aggressive action to “combat the hazards associated with extreme heat exposure…” Given our climate, these actions will necessarily impact a great many of us.
OSHA is going to take a multi-prong approach to this issue.
First, on September 1, 2021 OSHA implemented an Enforcement Initiative regarding heat-related illness and injuries. Under the Initiative, OSHA prioritized heat-related inspections on days that the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. The Initiative focuses primarily on General Industry, Construction, Agriculture and Maritime.
Second, in October of this year OSHA will issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat-related illnesses and injuries. This is the first step in developing a Standard on heat-related hazards. This means that OSHA may issue a new, detailed heat-hazard Standard some time next year.
Third, in 2022 OSHA will announce a new National Emphasis Program on heat-hazards. This will target certain industries and allocate OSHA staff on heat-related inspections. (This will be in addition to the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses in effect covering Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.)
Employer take-away. Employers will need to keep their eyes out for a new heat-related Standard in 2022, while at the same time ensuring that their current heat-related safety policies and practices are up to speed and well documented. The first thing OSHA is going to ask for in an audit or inspection is the written heat illness prevention program. If you don’t have one, now is the time to create it.