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Heat injury and illness prevention: OSHA’s Parker gives update during work group meeting

Photo: Sunbelt Rentals/elcosh

Washington — OSHA is reviewing comments on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat exposure in indoor and outdoor settings, at the same time planning a spring release of a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections, administrator Doug Parker said during a Feb. 25 meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health’s work group on heat injury and illness prevention.

Parker said OSHA is determining next steps on the ANPRM, published in the Oct. 27 Federal Register. Tasked with evaluating and providing guidance on the agency’s heat illness prevention materials as well as the ANPRM, the work group is charged with helping to influence that direction.

“We are looking forward to the input of this group and how we can incorporate your efforts into our particular strategies to address heat illness prevention,” Parker said during the teleconference.

The group, made up of labor and management representatives from industry stakeholders, as well as government representatives, reached at least one preliminary conclusion during its initial meeting.

“It actually is a fairly daunting task when you take a step back and think of the wide variety of industries, of workers, of individuals’ health status, of individuals’ fitness status, individual tolerance to the heat,” said work group member David DeGroot, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. “There’s a lot of things at play here, and we’ve got our work cut out for us on this one, that’s for sure.”

As the group provided recommendations on guidance materials, one point of conversation reflected the diversity of heat-related hazards and the need to address them.

For instance, OSHA’s annual summer campaign to remind employers and workers about the dangers of working in hot weather – Water. Rest. Shade. – might be in line for updating and expansion, said Kathleen Dobson, co-chair of the group and safety director for St. Louis-based Alberici Constructors Inc.

The campaign “works well for the agricultural and construction industries,” Dobson said, “but you’re not going to find shade in a manufacturing facility, and there may be industries where they just don’t have an opportunity to find that water, rest and shade. So, what else can we do?”

Kirk Sander of the National Waste and Recycling Association agreed with the perspective.

“That definitely resonated with me with the waste industry being indoors, outdoors and global,” Sander said. “Seeing how we can get a better-tailored approach out there.”

The discussion related to a presentation from OSHA health scientist Pamela Barclay and public health educator Inanje Mintz reviewing the agency’s heat illness prevention materials. Barclay said OSHA’s plans for the 2022 heat season include:

  • Producing a heat awareness video
  • Improving the heat campaign website
  • Co-programming with the Safe + Sound campaign
  • Developing targeted materials for employer responsibility and acclimatization
  • Evaluating dated resources and materials to prioritize for updates
  • Creating a heat e-newsletter
  • Facebook Live programming

Rebecca Reindel, co-chair of the work group and director of occupational safety and health for AFL-CIO, believes the discussion exploring recommendations on OSHA resources will inform future recommendations on potential elements of agency rulemaking.

“We think that this work really does overlap between the two charges a lot, because as an agency, we want OSHA to think holistically and comprehensively,” Reindel said. “And so whatever messaging is going out into these campaign materials also would be important in a standard that the agency could ultimately issue and enforce.”

The group intends to meet before the next anticipated NACOSH public meeting in May.

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