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OSHA proposed heat rule ready for publication


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr

Washington — OSHA has released a draft of its proposed rule on heat illness prevention.

The proposal will likely be published in the Federal Register in the coming days and a comment period will begin.

If finalized, the standard would require the formulation of a heat illness prevention plan. That plan would need to be in writing if an employer has 10 or more employees.

Employer requirements under the standard, or “initial heat trigger,” would go into effect when the heat index in the work area reaches 80° F or the wet bulb globe temperature is “equal to the NIOSH Recommended Alert Limit.” 

Those requirements include:

  • Monitoring employees for heat stress
  • Identifying heat hazards
  • Providing water (1 quart per employee per hour) and rest break areas
  • Indoor work area controls
  • Acclimatization 
  • Hazard alerts
  • Maintenance of personal protective equipment for heat

Additional requirements, known as the “high heat trigger,” would go into effect when the heat index reaches 90° F or the WGBT is equal to NIOSH’s Recommended Exposure Limit. Those requirements include a minimum 15-minute paid rest break for employees every two hours and observing employees for signs and symptoms of heat illness using:

  • A buddy system in which co-workers monitor one other.
  • Observation by a supervisor or heat safety coordinator – “with no more than 20 employees observed per supervisor or heat safety coordinator.”
  • Two-way communication for lone workers.

Employers would also have to place warning signs by indoor work areas where the “ambient temperatures” regularly exceed 120° F.

“Workers all over the country are passing out, suffering heatstroke and dying from heat exposure from just doing their jobs, and something must be done to protect them,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said in a July 2 press release. “Today’s proposal is an important next step in the process to receive public input to craft a ‘win-win’ final rule that protects workers while being practical and workable for employers.”  

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs reviewed the proposed rule from June 11 to July 1.

In May, OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health unanimously approved the proposed rule. The proposal was also examined by a Small Business Advocacy Review panel.

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