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Workplace Heat Standards Being Considered by OSHA
November 02, 2021
OSHA is considering rules to address heat injury and stress in the workplace. On October 27, 2021, OSHA filed an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("ANPRM") for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. The ANPRM includes 114 questions and seeks public input on heat-related issues that should be addressed in any standard, including possible controls or measures that might be considered to address heat-related injury and stress. Interested parties have 60 days (by December 27, 2021) to file comments with OSHA.

The White House announced in September 2021 that OSHA would be focusing on heat issues in the workplace in 2022 through a National Emphasis Program. Among other things, OSHA plans to prioritize heat-related complaints and workplace inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80°F. OSHA Area Directors will dedicate additional resources in responding to heat-related complaints, and expand the scope of programmed and unprogrammed inspections to address heat-related hazards. OSHA, through the emphasis program, plans to expand its campaign to educate and assist employers on heat illness prevention. This new emphasis program will be an expansion of a regional heat emphasis program already in place for Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

OSHA's explicit regulation of heat-related workplace injuries is new. Historically, OSHA regulated such injuries under its General Duty Clause. A new regulation would be specific to heat-related issues.

Climate change was one impetus for the ANPRM and OSHA's prioritization of heat-related issues in 2022. Citing the many heat-related events across the United States in recent years, President Biden ordered numerous federal agencies, including OSHA, to address heat-related issues.

Employers need to watch the new heat emphasis program and this rulemaking closely and should consider filing comments individually or with groups or trade associations on the scope of any such new rule. We expect the rule will impact indoor and outdoor workplaces and even small-to-medium-sized businesses.

Labor & Employment Law OSHA & MSHA Mark E. Heath