Construction workers wearing orange vests and hardhats.

Just in time for the hotter weather of spring and summer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a new national emphasis program on April 8, 2022, to help prevent heat-related illnesses.

The program, CPL 03-00-024, entitled “Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards,” was announced by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh together with Vice President Kamala Harris at a union training center in Philadelphia.

The most important part of the program is that it targets specific industries and activities, such as working outdoors in areas announced by the National Weather Service to be undergoing a heat wave, or working indoors near radiant heat sources, such as foundries.

Changes in Inspection Procedures

Programmed Inspections

Under the program, OSHA will conduct, in certain outdoor and indoor workplaces, programmed inspections on any day for which the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory in the local area. Those workplaces will be industries named in Appendix A to the program; examples include construction sites, petroleum production facilities, chemical factories, glass factories, iron and steel mills, bakeries, cattle ranches, some farms, and skilled nursing facilities.

Non-Programmed Inspections

  • The program will require OSHA inspectors conducting an investigation or inspection not related to heat hazards to open a heat-related inspection if a hazardous heat condition is recorded in an OSHA 300 log or 301 incident report, or if an employee brings a heat-related hazard to the inspector’s attention.
  • The program also will require inspectors to ask during non-heat inspections whether the employer has a heat-related hazard prevention program that applies when the heat index for the day is expected to be 80°F or more.

The program requires each OSHA regional office to double its number of heat-related inspections.

What OSHA Will Be Doing During a Heat-Related Inspection

During heat-related inspections, the program requires OSHA inspectors to:

  • Review OSHA 300 logs and 301 incident reports for evidence of heat-related illnesses;
  • Review records of heat-related emergency room visits or ambulance transport;
  • Interview workers for symptoms of headache, dizziness, fainting, dehydration, or other indicia of heat-related illnesses;
  • Document the existence of conditions, such as high temperature, that cause the heat-related hazards;
  • Determine whether the employer has a heat illness and injury program, including whether:
    • The employer has a written program;
    • The employer monitors temperature and worker exertion;
    • There is unlimited cool water easily accessible to workers;
    • There are required hydration breaks for hydration;
    • There are scheduled rest breaks;
    • Workers have access to a shaded area;
    • New and returning workers are provided time for acclimatization;
    • A “buddy” system is in place on hot days;
    • Work is scheduled to avoid hot parts of the day;
    • Job rotation is used to limit heat exposures; and
    • Employees are trained in the importance of hydration, heat illness signs, first aid and summoning of emergency personnel.

An interesting aspect of the directive is its reference to the legends and heat index ranges used by the National Weather Services’s heat index chart—“Caution” (80°F – 90°F HI), “Extreme Caution” (91°F – 103°F HI), “Danger” (103°F – 124°F HI), and “Extreme Danger” (126°F or higher HI). OSHA is aware that, after the scientific bases for these legends and ranges were questioned, its attorneys declined to rely on them, and that an administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (in a case handled by this firm) found that they lacked a scientific basis.

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