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Establishing a Heat Standard? A New Pitch to OSHA

With the Summer officially coming to a close, many organizations are looking back to assess better ways to improve their safety standards. Recently, more than 130 organizations have asked OSHA to establish a heat protection standard, with a goal of creating an industry baseline of safety standards and regulations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1992 and 2016 a total of 783 U.S. workers died from excessive heat, and more than 69,000 were injured due to overexposure to the high temperatures. A number of organizations attempted to petition OSHA in 2011 regarding the same topic, but OSHA denied the request.

This petition to OSHA outlines a number of standards and requirements for employers in the U.S. on the basis of reducing the dangers of heat-related illness and injury. These requests include:

  • Employers are required to provide mandatory 15 – 45-minute rest breaks at certain heat thresholds
  • Access to shade
  • Access to cooling PPE
  • Access to water and electrolytes
  • A heat acclimatization plan
  • Heat exposure monitoring
  • Medical monitoring for those exposed to heat above certain levels
  • Signage warning of the dangers of heat stress
  • A written heat alert program
  • Instructor-led worker training
  • Record-keeping of heat-related injuries and deaths
  • Whistleblower protection for those reporting violations of the heat standard

OSHA already offers guidelines on how to prevent and treat heat-related injuries and illnesses, but if OSHA determines that a requested standard is needed, then the rule development process begins. Once the OSHA allows the process to move forward, there will be an opportunity for community input and discussion. OSHA does not typically move quickly on establishing new rules and regulations unless it is deemed an immediate imperative, so there is little worry that a new heat standard will be developed by next summer, if at all.

For further guidance on heat stress training and prevention, feel free to reach out to The Integrated Group for your training needs.

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