Last week, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new National Emphasis Program for workplace heat stress risks. The program will involve inspections of both indoor and outdoor worksites that expose employees to excessive heat-related conditions. OSHA linked the new enforcement program to rising injuries and deaths related to heat and increasing temperatures resulting from climate change.
During last summer’s heat wave in the Northwest, OSHA noted increased illness reports from particularly susceptible industries such as agriculture, construction, and warehouse/distribution. OSHA announced last year that the agency is developing a heat standard that would require employers to take precautions when employees are exposed to temperatures above a certain threshold.
While that new standard is being developed, OSHA will use its enforcement authority under the General Duty Clause to cite employers considered to have exposed employees to an unreasonable risk of death or illness due to heat stress. The emphasis program will trigger inspections once the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area.