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New OSHA emphasis program targets heat hazards

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Photo: OSHA

Philadelphia — OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program as part of a multipronged effort to protect workers from outdoor and indoor heat exposure.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh introduced the enforcement program April 12 at a training center in Philadelphia.

OSHA will conduct heat-related inspections in more than 70 “high-risk” industries when the National Weather Service issues a heat warning or advisory for a local area. When the heat index reaches 80° F or higher, the agency will “engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job.”

Inspectors will “look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP,” which is slated to remain in effect until April 2025.

In addition to the NEP, OSHA highlights its free On-Site Consultation Program for small and medium-sized businesses to help employers address heat-related hazards. In October, the agency published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for a standard on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings.

 

On May 3, OSHA will host a public stakeholder meeting on its actions regarding heat-related hazards. That includes the agency’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign, compliance assistance and enforcement.

“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s,” Walsh said in a press release. “These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers.

“This enforcement program is another step toward our goal of a federal heat standard. Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation.”

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