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OSHA Issues Heat Hazard Alert and Recommendations for Employers

16 Aug

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Update Applicable to:

All employers with an emphasis on the construction and agriculture industries.

What happened?

On July 27, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Heat Hazard Alert, focusing on high-risk industries like construction and agriculture. The alert warns employers of increased inspections and emphasizes their legal and moral responsibility to protect workers from heat illness and injury.

What are the details?

National Emphasis Program:

Since 2021, OSHA has been developing a specific standard for heat illness prevention, but it has not been finalized yet. In the meantime, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program targeting 70 industries, including construction, agriculture, landscaping, roofing, and more, to address heat hazards.

General Duty Clause and OSHA Standards:

Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that could cause serious harm or death to employees, which includes heat-related injuries. OSHA primarily relies on the General Duty Clause for heat-related citations. Additionally, employers may face violations of specific OSHA standards if they fail to provide adequate heat-related training and personal protective equipment.

State Regulations:

Some states with OSHA-approved “state plans” have adopted heat-related hazard prevention regulations that employers must follow.

Liability and Criminal Prosecution:

Heat-related injuries can lead to worker’s compensation claims, and subjecting employees to dangerous heat conditions may result in criminal prosecution.

Heat Illness Prevention Plan:

To mitigate potential liability and protect workers, businesses should implement a heat illness prevention plan. Recommended precautions include providing regular rest breaks, shaded areas with misters for outdoor worksites, cold water or sports drinks, monitoring employees for signs of heat-related illness, improving ventilation, and offering air conditioning and fans where possible. New employees should also be given less strenuous tasks as they acclimate to working in the heat, and all employees should receive training on recognizing heat illness and responding to heat-related emergencies.

For more information, please see the links below:

OSHA News Release

White House Announcement

Hazard Alert

Article 1, Article 2

What do employers need to do?

Employers in high-risk industries should be aware of OSHA’s Heat Hazard Alert and take necessary measures to protect their workers from heat-related illnesses and injuries. Implementing a heat illness prevention plan and providing appropriate training can help businesses reduce the risk of legal issues and ensure the safety of their workforce.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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