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OSHA Announces Expanded Efforts to Protect Workers from Extreme Heat

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration announces efforts to improve efforts to protect workers from extreme heat
  • Issue known to have caused dozens of worker deaths and thousands of injuries in 2019
  • OSHA looking to prioritize heat-related interventions on days where the heat index exceeds 80 degrees

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is ramping up efforts to protect workers from extreme heat conditions in both indoor and outdoor working environments, the agency announced recently.

OSHA said that while workplace incidents related to extreme heat are underreported, it is known that 43 workers died and 2,410 others suffered serious injuries and illnesses in 2019. The agency also estimates that the effects of extreme heat on workers results in an estimated annual economic loss of $100 billion, with the figure expected to rise considerably due to climate change.

In response to this issue, OSHA is launching an initiative to prioritize heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days where the heat index exceeds 80 degrees.

  • Extreme heat is most likely to affect agricultural and construction workers, but can affect a wide range of workers if proper precautions are not taken
  • OSHA is pledging to increase enforcement efforts on days with high heat indexes
  • Employers are encouraged to take steps such as regular breaks for water, rest, and shade; training workers on identifying symptoms of heat-related illnesses; and taking periodic measurements to determine workers’ heat exposure
  • OSHA is issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in both indoor and outdoor workplaces, and plans to open a national program to focus agency resources on high-risk areas for heat injury

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