OSHA Proposes National Worker Heat Stress Rule to Protect Indoor and Outdoor Workers from Extreme Heat

In what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is calling a “significant step toward a federal heat standard to protect workers”, the agency is issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. OSHA encourages the public to submit comments when the proposed standard is officially published in the Federal Register.

The proposed National Worker Heat Stress standard will apply to all employees conducting outdoor and indoor work in all general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture sections where OSHA has jurisdiction.

The proposed standard would require employers with more than 10 employees to develop a worksite heat injury and illness prevention plan (HIIP) when workers are exposed to a heat index of 80oF, known as the “initial heat trigger”, or higher, to control heat hazards in workplaces affected by excessive heat.

Under the HIIP, in outdoor work areas, employers would be required to evaluate heat risks at by either tracking local heat index forecasts provided by the National Weather Service or measuring a wet bulb globe temperature. For indoor workspaces, employers would be required to identify areas that have the potential for hazardous heat exposure.  If conditions meet certain Heat Triggers employers would be required to provide employees with cool drinking water, rest breaks in areas with cooling measures, and indoor work area controls. It would also require a plan to protect new or returning workers unaccustomed to working in high heat conditions. Employers would also be required to provide training, have procedures to respond if a worker is experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness, and take immediate action to help a worker experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat emergency.

Since it launched its National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards (2022), OSHA has conducted inspections under the NEP at workplaces with the highest exposures to heat-related hazards (e.g., firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, and construction workers) proactively to prevent workers from suffering injury, illness or death needlessly.

Workers in outdoor and indoor work settings without adequate thermal controls are at risk of hazardous heat exposure. Certain heat-generating processes, machinery, and equipment (e.g., hot tar ovens, furnaces) can increase heat stress as well as increase temperatures to create hazardous heat when cooling measures are not in place.

OSHA’s proposed National Worker Heat Stress standard announcement comes as Cal OSHA’s newly proposed indoor heat rule moved close to approval and has potential for most California employers with indoor temperature is greater than 82°F to implement as early as August 1, 2024.

Contact RHP Risk Management to Reduce the Risk of Heat Stress in Your Workplace

RHP Risk Management’s staff of experienced Industrial Hygiene provide guidance to employers in development and implementation of a heat injury and illness prevention plant (HIIP). Contact us for an initial consultation or call (866) 481-8188.

For more on occupational heat stress, listen to Rod Harvey’s, P.E., CIH, CSP, CHMM interview with the Missouri Employers Mutual workSAFE podcast, watch Rod’s interview with Business Insurance, and listen to Rod’s appearance on the Greenberg Traurig Workplace Safety Review podcast.