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OSHA Launches National Heat Emphasis Program

There’s no shortage of OSHA emphasis programs lately, and now they’re giving you another thing to worry about. Earlier this week, the Department of Labor announced that OSHA has launched a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect workers from both indoor and outdoor heat hazards. They’ll be conducting heat-related workplace inspections to get ahead of avoidable injuries, illness – or in some cases, fatalities. 

DoL Secretary Marty Walsh made the announcement at an event in Philadelphia on April 12, with the initiative already having been made effective on April 8. The plan is to encourage employers to take proactive steps to avoid illness and death for workers that are exposed to high heat conditions. The average number of deaths caused by heat-related illness has doubled since the 1990s. Employers who operate outdoors regularly are typically aware of these risks, but companies where most employees work indoors haven’t considered themselves at risk of answering to OSHA on this.  Many large manufacturers are still operating with no air conditioning in their factories, and may only be providing bits and pieces of what employees need to stay safe in these stifling environments. 

The program will involve OSHA inspecting indoor and outdoor employer sites across 70+ high-risk industries, specifically in areas where an official heat warning or advisory has been issued. If it’s 804° F or higher, inspectors and compliance officers will provide proactive outreach and assistance to help employers keep their staff safe at work. Even if your industry is not one of the 70+ included in the NEP program, OSHA’s inspectors will be seeking out and addressing heat hazards during these inspections. 
Since virtually any company could be subject to this NEP, here are some questions to ask yourself about your workplace(s). If you can’t answer a resounding “yes,” to each of them, then you may have work to do in order to get your workplace compliant. 

  • Do employees have easy access to plenty of water (hydration stations)? 
  • Are they given rest and shade breaks when working on hot conditions? 
  • Have they been trained on how to recognize heat-related illness in themselves and their co-workers, and what to do when they see it? 
  • Are employees being given an opportunity to acclimate to excessive heat before being expected to work an entire shift in it? 
  • Have you talked to your employees about how certain medications and medical conditions can impact how their bodies respond to excessive heat and sun exposure? 

You can view all of the details here, as well as find the list of industries being included on pages 28-31. Our safety team is always here to help answer any OSHA or safety related questions you might have, and we want to help Ohio employers build safe workplaces. Please reach out to Jon Carpenter with any questions at Register here for OSHA courses taking place on May 10, 17 and 24 to help employers prepare for this NEP and understand their obligations. 

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