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US | OSHA to Address Heat-Related Illnesses

Construction Worker Heat Hot Sweat

In a news release dated September 20, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stated it will:

  • Implement an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards
  • Develop a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections
  • Begin the rulemaking process for a workplace heat standard

OSHA is also forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group.

OSHA’s new intervention and enforcement initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The initiative applies to both indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime where potential heat hazards exist. OSHA encourages employers to address heat priority days proactively by providing regular breaks for water, rest, and shade. Employers should take periodic measurements to determine workers’ heat exposure and train workers to identify common symptoms and what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring. OSHA Area Directors will prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals, and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an onsite investigation where possible. Directors will also instruct their compliance safety and health officers to conduct an intervention or open an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions. Officers can also expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicate these hazards may be present.

Looking Ahead

In October 2021, OSHA will issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. In 2022, OSHA will establish a National Emphasis Program targeting high-risk industries and focus resources and staff time on heat inspections. The program will use the existing Regional Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses from OSHA’s Region VI.


OSHA National News Release, US Department of Labor announces enhanced, expanded measures to protect workers from hazards of extreme heat, indoors and out, Sept. 20, 2021

Memorandum from Kimberly Stille, Acting Director Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Inspection Guidance for Heat-Related Hazards, Sept. 1, 2021

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