Recurring incidents and the ongoing effects of climate change have caused a deeper assessment of the heat-related risks that workers face, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has moved to offer more protection.
OSHA has launched a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect workers from heat illness and injuries after months of gathering input from experts and industry personnel on how to monitor and combat extreme heat in the workplace. The OSHA program will focus on reducing the threat that indoor and outdoor workers face from exposure to heat.
Through the program, OSHA investigators will conduct workplace inspections to identify where employees face risks of suffering heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or other illnesses caused by extreme temperatures. These inspections will take place at indoor and outdoor work settings in high-risk industries when the U.S. National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area.
In addition, when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius) or higher, inspectors will offer technical assistance to help employers keep their workers safe.
In addition, OSHA’s area offices will engage in outreach to unions, employers in target industries, and other organizations and its On-Site Consultation Program will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.
Reducing workplace heat-related illnesses and injuries has been a priority for OSHA as the three-year average number of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s.