OSHA - Occupational Safety & Health Administration

05/08/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/08/2024 12:23

05/08/2024 - OSHA National News Release - Department of Labor takes critical step in heat safety rulemaking, continues heightened enforcement efforts, focuses on dangers to[...]

OSHA National News Release

U.S. Department of Labor

May 8, 2024

Department of Labor takes critical step in heat safety rulemaking, continues heightened enforcement efforts, focuses on dangers to agricultural workers

Advisory committee approves unanimously to advance proposed rule

WASHINGTON - The Department of Labor has taken an important step in addressing the dangers of workplace heat and moved closer to publishing a proposed rule to reducing the significant health risks of heat exposure for U.S. workers in outdoor and indoor settings.

On April 24, 2024, the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration presented the draft rule's initial regulatory framework at a meeting of 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.

In the interim, OSHA continues to direct significant existing outreach and enforcement resources to educate employers and workers and hold businesses accountable for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act's general duty clause, 29 U.S.C. ยง 654(a)(1) and other applicable regulations. Record-breaking temperatures across the nation 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.

"Workers at risk of heat illness need a new rule to protect workers from heat hazards. OSHA is working aggressively to develop a new regulation that keeps workers safe from the dangers of heat," explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "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 or death needlessly. Since the launch, OSHA has conducted nearly 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.

In addition, the agency is prioritizing programmed inspections in agricultural industries that employ temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor. These workers face unique vulnerabilities, including potential language barriers, less control over their living and working conditions, and possible lack of acclimatization, and are at high risk of hazardous heat exposure.

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 get used to working in hot temperatures. Workers and managers should also be trained so they can identify and help prevent heat illness themselves.

"No worker should have to get sick or die because their employer refused to provide water, or breaks to recover from high heat, or failed to act after a worker showed signs of heat illness," Parker added.

As always, OSHA will share information and coordinate enforcement and compliance assistance efforts with states operating their own occupational safety and health programs. At the same time, the agency's compliance assistance specialists regularly meet with employer associations, workers and their advocacy groups and labor unions to supply information and education on heat hazards.

Learn more about OSHA. Learn more about working in outdoor and indoor heat environments.

Media Contacts:

Patrick Malone, 202-997-3512, [email protected]
Paloma Renteria, 202-579-1643, [email protected]

Release Number: 24-882-NAT