On September 20, 2021, OSHA announced that it will be taking steps to mitigate the risks of heat illness in the workplace. This announcement comes as part of President Biden’s initiative on multiple fronts to combat the effects of climate change. As part of this initiative, OSHA plans on taking the following measures.
- Implementing its recent enforcement initiative related to heat stress;
- Developing a National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) for heat stress inspections;
- Begining the process of developing a standard to address heat stress.
This last step, the development of a heat stress standard, is of particular importance. Historically, OSHA has enforced heat stress-related matters through the use of the “General Duty Clause,” its catch-all provision that applies in the absence of a particular standard. A new standard hopefully will provide greater guidance to employers in this area.
In the meantime, OSHA’s announcement also notes that the Agency will prioritize heat-related inspections and will direct its compliance officers to focus on heat-related issues during their inspections of outdoor worksites.
As always, we recommend that employers take all necessary precautions to protect their employees from heat-related hazards. We will provide further updates as the proposed standard rolls out.