OSHA issues its first hazard alert on heat
Washington — OSHA is urging employers to take steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat, including providing adequate cool water, rest breaks, and shade or a cool rest area.
According to a hazard alert issued on July 27, employers also should:
- Give new or returning employees a chance to gradually acclimatize to high-heat conditions, provide training and plan for emergencies, and monitor for signs/symptoms of heat-related illness.
- Train employees on heat-related illness prevention, signs of heat-related illness, and how to act if they or another employee appears to be experiencing a heat-related illness.
The alert – the first from OSHA focusing on heat – explains how workers can notify OSHA of safety violations and details whistleblower protections. It includes resources and OSHA current/future actions on heat-related issues, including compliance assistance.
The alert is one of two measures the Biden administration is taking to help combat heat-related issues in the workplace. The other is increased inspections in high-risk industries such as construction and agriculture.
“Since 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 436 people have died due to workplace heat exposure, with an annual average of 38 deaths between 2011 to 2019,” an OSHA press release states. “In addition, an average of 2,700 cases involving heat illnesses lead to days lost at work, putting an additional economic burden on workers and employers.
“Statistics show that people who work in conditions without adequate climate control face higher risks of hazardous heat exposure, and that these situations disproportionately expose people of color to hazardous heat.”
In October 2021, OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings.
“As [OSHA] works toward proposing a rule to protect workers from heat illness, we are taking several measures today to better protect workers in extreme heat,” agency administrator Doug Parker said. “Employers have a duty to protect workers by reducing and eliminating hazards that expose workers to heat illness or injury.”