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OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Heat-Related Hazards

Earlier this year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards. The stated aim of the NEP is to “identify and eliminate or reduce […] occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries” by focusing on specific industries where such hazards exist.

In the past, heat-related inspections have accounted for 0.5% of all Federal inspections for fiscal years 2017 through 2021. Under this new directive, each Region is expected to double the number of heat inspections for 2022 from the previous five-year average. Following an inspection by a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO), a site may be issued a General Duty Clause (GDC) violation under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act or a Hazard Alert Letter. However, OSHA may cite under an existing standard, such as 29 CFR § 1910.141, 29 CFR §1926.51, or 29 CFR §1928.110, that require potable water to be made available to employees.

Industries Targeted by the NEP

In Appendix A of the NEP, OSHA provides three tables of industries listed by their four-digit NAICS codes that have historically experienced a significant number of heat-related illnesses. Certain industries may have heat hazards inherent to their operations, such as bakeries, chemical manufacturing, and foundries. OSHA will randomly select which sites to visit on days where heat warnings or advisories are issued by the National Weather Service. Referrals for inspections may also be made by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Scope of Inspections

When a CSHO visits a site, they will assess how heat has affected and continues to affect the health and safety of the workers and assess what measures the employer has taken to mitigate exposure. The CSHO may review any pertinent OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports as well as conduct worker interviews. A review of the site’s heat illness and injury program—if one exists—may also be conducted. In their review, the CSHO may check to see if elements of a comprehensive program are in place, including heat assessments, work-rest schedules, training, and provisions for acclimatization for new and returning workers.

To evaluate whether workers are at risk of heat-related illnesses, the CSHO will document weather conditions for the day, noting temperature and humidity, and will also seek to identify any activities that expose workers to heat-related hazards. After their inspection, the CSHO will review their data and determine if a citation or heat hazard letter is warranted.

Be Prepared, Be Ready

To avoid heat-related illnesses and keep workers safe, employers should implement engineering and administrative controls. Air conditioning, cooling fans, and shade should be provided where feasible. The employer should also consider scheduling jobs for either the cooler parts of the workday or during the cooler season—especially those involving routine maintenance. Workers should also take rests from the heat and use the time to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating. Employers should educate workers on how to identify heat-related illnesses and provide first aid. Employers should also provide training employees ample time to acclimatize to the heat. All these measures are part of an effective heat illness and injury program.

Should you need assistance in implementing a heat illness and injury program at your site, consult U.S. Compliance. U.S. Compliance can help you understand the applicability of the NEP to your site and evaluate heat exposure to keep your employees safe.

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