High temperatures in the Southwestern United States have and continue to break records. In Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, the heat index could reach triple digits and in some cases exceed 110°F. These elevated temperatures pose a serious risk to employees exposed to heat due to the nature of their jobs. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is aggressively enforcing its national and regional programs aimed at preventing heat-related illnesses and fatalities.
On April 8, 2022, OSHA launched a national emphasis program to protect workers from heat-related illness and injuries. On May 11, 2022, OSHA’s Region 6 Regional Office, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, and worksites in New Mexico under federal OSHA jurisdiction, issued a separate press release reminding employers and workers “not to ignore the dangers of working in hot weather – indoors and out.”
Given OSHA’s emphasis on heat-related injuries, employers in Region 6, especially those in industries known for heat-related illnesses and fatalities such as agriculture, construction, oil and gas operations, may want to familiarize themselves with OSHA’s Regional [Region 6] Emphasis Program for Heat Illnesses (REP) that took effect on October 1, 2019. Under the REP, when the heat index is forecasted to be above 80°F, employers must take the following heat illness precautions, including: (1) training employees on the hazards of hot environmental temperatures, (2) making appropriate first aid supplies available, (3) having drinking water available, (4) having shade or a climate-controlled (i.e. air conditioning area for rest breaks, (5) having a protocol to protect employees particularly vulnerable to heat stress, specifically new workers and those who have just returned from an extended absence and (6) having made provisions for prompt medical attention if a worker experiences a heat-related illness.
Employers in Region 6 may want to consider reviewing their policies and procedures for preventing heat-related illnesses to ensure they meet all the requirements of the REP. Employers may be interested in heat-related hazard policy templates to assist them in complying with heat-related safety initiatives. Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to OSHA’s national and regional emphasis programs on indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards and will post updates on the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health blog. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.