July 2022: OSHA Launches National Emphasis Program Targeting Heat-Related Workplace Illness and Injuries

07 Jul


Update Applicable to:
All employers with employees in heat-related environments.

What happened?
On April 8, 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) on indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards that expand on the agency’s ongoing heat-related illness prevention campaign.

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What are the details?
Effective immediately, the NEP applies when employees are exposed to outdoor heat at or above 80°F with the humidity at or above 40%. This program does not apply to incidental exposure, which exists when an employee is not required to perform a work activity outdoors for more than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period.

OSHA has only issued approximately 400 heat-related citations since 2018. Under the NEP, OSHA plans to double the amount of heat-related inspections it conducts and issue more heat-related citations to employers.

Programmed and Unprogrammed Inspections
OSHA will conduct programmed inspections when the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory in an area. OSHA will target high-risk workplaces for these inspections, such as construction sites, automobile factories, petroleum refineries, chemical factories, glass factories, iron and steel mills, bakeries, cattle ranches, farms, and skilled nursing facilities.

OSHA will open an unprogrammed inspection if a hazardous heat condition is recorded in an employer’s OSHA 300 log or 301 incident report or if an employee raises a heat-related issue to a compliance officer. OSHA inspectors must also ask employers about their heat-related prevention programs during all inspections.

OSHA will conduct a follow-up inspection when an employer(s) is cited for a heat-related fatality to determine whether abatement was implemented.

Heat Index of at Least 80°F
OSHA will focus on workplaces where the heat index is 80°F or higher, though the agency acknowledged that heat-related fatalities have occurred with a heat index below 80°F.

During inspections, compliance officers will assess whether employers:

  • Provide accessible, cool drinking water to employees at all times and at no cost to them;
  • Have written heat illness and injury programs and trained employees on hydration, heat illness signs, first aid, and summoning emergency personnel;
  • Monitor ambient temperatures and levels of work exertion at worksites;
  • Schedule rest and hydration breaks;
  • Provide access to shaded areas;
  • Provide time for acclimatization of new and returning employees (OSHA’s recommended rule is that employees should only work 20% of their normal duration on their first day and gradually increase work duration over a one- to two-week period);
  • Schedule job rotations (such as earlier start times and employee rotation) to limit heat exposure; and
  • Implement a “buddy” system on hot days.

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For more information, please see the links below:

National Emphasis Program (NEP)

OSHA National News Release

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, implement safety policies to protect their employees from the heat, and keep them informed that some health conditions may increase the likelihood of a heat-related illness.

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