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OSHA Enacts New Program to Reduce Heat-Related Illness

OSHA Enacts New Program to Reduce Heat-Related Illness

On April 8, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a new initiative to prevent heat-related injuries, illness, and health concerns. Here’s what the new program involves and what changes you can expect to see as OSHA cracks down on the inspection process. 


Who Does the Program Affect?

The new heat enforcement program focuses on industries where heat is regularly present. Specific job locations can include oil rigs, foundries, and steel mills. 

Two types of inspection protocols are outlined: programmed and non-programmed. Programmed inspections will affect industries at risk of heat-related illness due to environmental factors, including construction sites, farming industries, petroleum rigs, vehicle manufacturing plants, etc. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down affected sites into three tables. Each table comprises industries with high incident rates, increased numbers of employees missing work due to heat-related illness, and the highest number of heat-related violations. The three tables are as follows:

  1. Non-construction industries in the Office of Statistical Analysis (OSA) ListGen application that are likely to have heat-related hazards
  2. Construction industries that are likely to have heat-related hazards
  3. Industries not included in Construction or the ListGen application that are likely to have heat-related hazards. 

Non-programmed inspections can affect any industry as it is triggered by reports instead of weather-related advisories. 


What Prompts an OSHA Heat-Related Inspection? 

Programmed inspections will occur on days when the National Weather Service declares a heat advisory local to the site in question. According to Appendix G of the OSHA Instruction, these heat advisories, alerts, and warnings can look like the following:

  • Heat Advisory–Take Action! This advisory occurs when dangerous heat conditions are within 12 hours of onset. A heat advisory typically occurs when expected high temperatures are above 100°F for two or more consecutive days while the nighttime temperature remains above 75°F. 

  • Heat Wave–Take Action! An advisory will occur when a heat wave has been forecast by local weather sources. A heat wave is when daily high temperatures exceed 95°F, or the previous day's temperature exceeds 90°F, and is at least 9°F hotter than the high from the days prior.

  • Excessive Heat Warning–Take Action! This advisory occurs when expected high temperatures are 105°F or above for two or more days, while nighttime temperatures are 75°F or more.

  • Excessive Heat Watches–Be Prepared! These heat watches are announced when current conditions indicate the high possibility of an incoming heat wave within 24-72 hours.

  • Excessive Heat Outlooks–Be Prepared! A heat outlook indicates the potential for extreme heat events within the following 3-7 days. This advisory is for those who need time to prepare for the incoming event. 

Non-programmed inspections are conducted specifically when a hazardous heat condition is recorded on an OSHA 300 Log or 301 Incident Report. They can also occur if an employee raises a concern about a heat-related hazard within the workplace. In these instances, employers need to have heat-related preventative measures in place. 

As part of this new program, OSHA will now be doubling the number of heat-related inspections. All OSHA regional offices must comply with this new measure. 


What Will an OSHA Heat-Related Inspection Cover?

As stated in the OSHA Instruction, the inspection requires that OSHA inspectors:

  • Review OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports for any possible entries insinuating heat-related injuries

  • Review records of heat-related emergency room visits and ambulance usage, even if there was no hospitalization.

  • Interview current employees and workers for signs of dizziness, fatigue, headache, dehydration, fainting, and any other conditions that indicate a potential heart-related concern

  • Determine if the employer has established a heat and illness prevention program that includes:

    • A written program

    • Means of monitoring temperature levels and work exertion levels

    • Employee access to cool or cold water

    • Allotted hydration breaks

    • Regularly scheduled rest breaks

    • Access to shade

    • Acclimatization periods for new and returning employees

    • Active "buddy" system in place

    • Administrative assistance in limiting heat exposure

    • Training on signs of heat-related illness, how to report heat-related conditions, first aid, access to emergency personnel, general prevention, and the importance of staying hydrated

Additional Resources

You can also stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with OSHA news and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

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