On July 7, Region 4 of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a news release reminding employers of their duty to protect employees from heat-related illnesses. Region 4 includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, all states where federal OSHA enforces workplace safety rules. However, employers in Southeast states with their OSHA enforcement programs, such as North Carolina and South Carolina, should also take precautions to limit the effects of heat stress.
The OSHA reminder advises employers to train employees and adopt heat illness reduction programs, including providing frequent water breaks and ensuring employees have opportunities to rest in shaded areas. Failure to follow these requirements could result in inspections and citations under the General Duty Clause.
OSHA is developing a heat illness safety standard that would apply to all states. Even before this standard is released, federal OSHA is conducting a national emphasis inspection program based on heat stress exposure. Many employers in the Southeast may assume that their workers are already acclimatized to summer heat, but this OSHA advisory reminds companies to pay attention to heat hazards, even in parts of the country where summer high temperatures and humidity are typical.