A new initiative by the Biden administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aims to protect workers from extreme heat. 

OSHA is developing a national emphasis program for heat inspections as well as a work group to better understand the challenges and create best practices for employers and workers.

That will coincide with new workplace heat standards and an increase in enforcement this year. 

The initiative comes after more than 40 workers died from heat-related illness in 2019. From 2011 to 2019, there were an average of 38 deaths from environmental heat, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

There is no question working outside in high temperatures has led to illness, but the Department of Labor said there are protections that should be in place for workers who are inside too. 

Notable industries include foundries, electrical utilities, bakeries, glass production facilities, chemical plants, and warehouses without adequate climate control.

Inspection Guidance

OSHA has issued inspection guidance for employers. 

Area directors have been prompted to:

  • Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses and initiate investigation where possible.
  • Instruct compliance safety and health officers to conduct an intervention or open an inspection when they see employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions.
  • Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates hazards.

OSHA is expected to issue an advance notice of proposed rule-making this month, allowing the agency to gain perspective and technical expertise on various heat injury and illness topics.

For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).