DOL Takes Steps Toward New Heat Safety Rules

working in the heat

The U.S. Department of Labor has moved toward publishing a proposed rule to reduce the significant health risks of heat exposure for U.S. workers in outdoor and indoor settings.

On April 24, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) presented the initial regulatory framework to the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The committee, which advises the agency on safety and health standards and policy matters, unanimously recommended OSHA move forward expeditiously on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

As part of the rulemaking process, the agency will seek and consider input from a wide range of stakeholders and the public at-large as it works to propose and finalize its rule.

This proposed new federal regulation comes as states have been passing laws to block heat protections for workers, as Cleanfax previously reported.

Record-breaking temperatures across the U.S. have increased the risks people face on-the-job, especially in summer months. Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more suffer illnesses related to hazardous heat exposure that, sadly, are most often preventable. OSHA emphasized it also will continue to enforce violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1) and other applicable regulations.

“Workers at risk of heat illness need a new rule to protect workers from heat hazards,” said Doug Parker, OSHA assistant secretary. “OSHA is working aggressively to develop a new regulation that keeps workers safe from the dangers of heat. As we move through the required regulatory process for creating these protections, OSHA will use all of its existing tools to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect workers from known hazards such as heat, including our authority to stop employers from exposing workers to conditions which pose an imminent danger.”

The agency continues to conduct heat-related inspections under its National Emphasis Program–Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards, launched in 2022. The program inspects workplaces with the highest exposures to heat-related hazards proactively to prevent workers from suffering injury, illness, and death needlessly. Since the launch, OSHA has conducted nearly 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.

By law, employers must protect workers from the dangers of heat exposure and should have a proper safety and health plan in place. At a minimum, employers should provide adequate cool water, rest breaks, and shade or a cool rest area. Employees who are new or returning to a high-heat workplace should be allowed time to gradually adjust to working in hot temperatures. Workers and managers should also be trained so they can identify and help prevent heat illness themselves.

Cleanfax Staff

Cleanfax provides cleaning and restoration professionals with information designed to help them manage and grow their businesses.

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