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Heat Illness Prevention: New Federal Heat Standard

On October 27, 2021, OSHA initiated rulemaking with the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings.  Record-breaking heat across the US this past summer endangered millions of workers across all areas of the country. The Pacific Northwest endured a heat wave with temperatures 20-35∙ F above normal.  According to the Department of Labor, the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will initiate a comment period to gather diverse perspectives and expertise on topics, such as heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning and exposure monitoring. Currently, OSHA does not have a specific standard for hazardous heat conditions and the changing climate and increasing temperatures has created a pressing need for a standard.

Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, exposure to excessive environmental heat stress has killed 907 U.S. workers from 1992-2019, with an average of 32 fatalities per year during that time period (BLS, September 10, 2021a).

As of October 2021, four states (California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington) have created hazardous heat standards. These standards require employers to provide protections and other measures to reduce the risk of heat-related illness for their employees, such as access to water, mandatory breaks, shade structures and training for employers.

OSHA will also be using existing resources while waiting for a heat specific standard to be implemented.  Through a new enforcement initiative, OSHA will prioritize heat-related interventions and workplace inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80°F. OSHA will provide additional resources to respond to heat-related complaints and use workplace inspections as a tool for addressing heat-related hazards.

If you’d like to comment on the proposed heat-related standard or provide your insights, the full document can be found on the Federal Register.

As always, Wakefield Equipment is here to help and keep you up to date on legislation that impacts your business. We can also help design your manufacturing floor to optimize efficiency while keeping employee safety top of mind.

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