OSHA is expected to introduce a potential occupational heat exposure safety rule this month as part of a series of immediate enforcement actions to protect workers from heat hazards.
OSHA’s comprehensive initiative on occupational heat exposure, announced September 20, features a series of rulemakings, initiatives, inspections, and committee expansions.
The memo requires OSHA to take the following measures:
- Publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The ANPRM will be published in the Federal Register in October, followed by public comments.
- Implement an enforcement initiative to prioritize heat-related interventions and workplace inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80°F.
- Develop and formalize a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat inspections—especially in high-risk industries.
- Form a “Heat Illness Prevention Work Group” within the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).
Why Worry About Heat in October?
The White House memo specifically cites the June 2021 heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, when states reported hundreds of excess deaths and thousands of emergency room visits for heat-related illness.
This is just one of many instances in recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that from 2011 to 2019, environmental heat cases
resulted in an average of 38 fatalities per year and an average of 2,700 cases involving days away from work.
In 2019, one of the largest delivery companies in the world was fined $13,260
for allegedly exposing one of its drivers to excessive heat, requiring immediate medical care. In its citation, OSHA listed the incident as a serious violation.
Although outdoor workers, such as agricultural, construction, and delivery workers, may not be as active in the fall and winter, indoor workers continue to battle heat-related hazards all year round. Workers in industrial kitchens, on manufacturing floors, and in warehouses are all likely to see occupational changes as soon as OSHA implements these measures.
Protect Your Workers from Heat Hazards
The signs of heat-related illnesses may seem obvious. However, the symptoms can mimic numerous other, much less serious conditions. Don’t leave your team’s safety to chance! Lion’s Heat Illness Prevention – Supervisors
course prepares supervisors to recognize and protect their team from the effects of heat stress, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion, among other injuries and illness associated with heat. The course is available online, so you can learn at your own pace and earn useful resources you can save, print, and keep.