OSHA Launches Heat-Related Workplace Inspections
1 June, 2022
1 June, 2022
As the summer approaches, it becomes more important to be aware of the dangers posed by working in extreme heat. OSHA is tackling this issue head-on this year as the agency has launched a National Emphasis Program to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injury. Through the program, OSHA will conduct heat-related workplace inspections to help keep workers from suffering completely preventable injuries, illnesses, or fatalities.
Heat illness affects thousands of indoor and outdoor workers each year and can tragically lead to death. Reducing workplace heat-related illnesses and injuries is a top priority for the Department of Labor; the DOL states that this National Emphasis Program is a way to immediately improve enforcement and compliance efforts while continuing long-term work to establish a heat illness prevention rule. While heat-related illnesses have long been an issue, the current administration is stepping up efforts due to rising temperatures resulting from climate change.
“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s. These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons, or geography. From farmworkers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “This enforcement program is another step towards our goal of a federal heat standard. Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation.”
OSHA will be watching the thermometer, and when the heat index is 80 F or higher, inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help keep workers safe on the job. Inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections.
Workers in indoor environments can suffer from heat as well, so OSHA will focus on any area where heat can be a problem. “Our goal is to make it safe for workers in hot indoor and outdoor environments so that they can return home safe and healthy at the end of each day,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “Working together, we can ensure workers know their rights and employers meet their obligations in order to protect workers from the growing dangers of extreme heat.”
The agency’s On-Site Consultation Program, free and confidential health and safety consulting program for small- and medium-sized businesses, will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces. More information is available in this fact sheet on OSHA’s National Emphasis Program.
Overall, OSHA’s message is simple, reports the department: Water. Rest. Shade. Here are some more verbose guidelines to keep your crew safe:
Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes.
There are job site and training tools available to help your team learn about and mitigate heat-related illness. The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is a free, downloadable app that calculates a worksite’s heat index and displays the associated risk levels. Your painters will receive precautionary recommendations specific to heat index risk. Additionally, the agency developed a new poster and pamphlet on preventing heat illness at work. Both are available in English and Spanish.
Finally, OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure page explains the symptoms of heat illness, first aid measures to provide while waiting for help, engineering controls and work practices to reduce workers’ exposure to heat, plus training.