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OSHA advisory committee gives proposed heat rule a thumbs-up


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr

Washington — OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health has unanimously recommended that the agency move forward with its proposed standard on protecting workers from excessive heat.

A notice of proposed rulemaking could appear sometime before Oct. 1, acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said during a May 1 House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing

“As part of the rulemaking process, the agency will seek and consider input from a wide range of stakeholders and the public at-large as it works to propose and finalize its rule,” OSHA says in a May 8 press release.

Until a standard is finalized, the agency can cite employers under the General Duty Clause, although proving violations of the clause requires a four-part test. OSHA is also continuing its National Emphasis Program for outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards, which began in 2022. 

“Workers at risk of heat illness need a new rule to protect workers from heat hazards,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said. “OSHA is working aggressively to develop a new regulation that keeps workers safe from the dangers of heat.

“As we move through the required regulatory process for creating these protections, OSHA will use all of its existing tools to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect workers from known hazards such as heat, including our authority to stop employers from exposing workers to conditions which pose an imminent danger.”

The agency says it’s prioritizing inspections for agricultural employers who have temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor. 

“These workers face unique vulnerabilities, including potential language barriers, less control over their living and working conditions, and possible lack of acclimatization, and are at high risk of hazardous heat exposure,” the release states.

The agency reminds employers that they need a heat safety and health plan, which should include provisions for acclimatization, water, rest and shade.

“Employees who are new or returning to a high heat workplace should be allowed time to gradually get used to working in hot temperatures,” OSHA says. “Workers and managers should also be trained so they can identify and help prevent heat illness themselves.”

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