As in prior years, OSHA recommends that on hot days workers take “frequent breaks in a cool or shady environment, and drink water every 15 minutes.” In addition, citing a recent study that found that most heat-related workplace fatalities occurred during workers’ first week on the job, the agency urged “employers to allow new workers to acclimate and build up resistance to the increased temperatures.”
This year, OSHA is encouraging employers to share their ideas on protecting workers from heat illnesses via email to HeatSafetyTips@dol.gov. The agency also provides links to the OSHA-National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Heat Safety Tool smartphone app (available on iTunes and the Google Play store) and is urging interested parties to share tips and photos on Twitter, using the hashtags: #WaterRestShade and #ProTips.
OSHA does not have a specific standard for exposure to heat and relies on the General Duty Clause under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to cite employers for heat-related hazards. According to OSHA, courts have interpreted the General Duty Clause to mean that employers are required to provide a workplace free of heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. California has its own heat-illness standard with which employers working in California must comply. California’s heat illness standard contains specific requirements for water, shade, and rest periods.
As the summer heats up, employers may want to consider implementing the following courses of action.
Water consumption. Employers should consider using bottled water, as opposed to a container of potable water—to make it easier to track how much to bring and how much employees consume.
Shade access. OSHA seems to favor canvas shades—many of which are easy to assemble and provide plenty of room for employees—or air conditioning such as in a running vehicle.
Rest periods. While many affected employers implement mandatory rest periods of durations depending on the temperature (with stop work orders when the temperature becomes dangerously high), each employee acclimates to the heat differently. One employee may only need a few minutes of rest every few hours; another may need 10 to 15 minutes every hour. Employers may want to implement a buddy system to encourage employees who work together to watch for and quickly spot the first signs of heat illness in their coworkers.
Melissa Bailey focuses her practice on occupational safety and health issues, and also serves on the Firm's Board of Directors. She litigates OSHA cases before federal and state agencies and courts, and also represents employers during government inspections and investigations. Her practice also includes providing compliance advice and conducting privileged audits on complex workplace safety issues. Melissa represents employers in a wide range of industries, including electric utilities,...
*Currently licensed in Maryland and the District of Columbia only. Shontell focuses her practice on occupational safety and health law, assisting employers in enforcement matters before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and state plan review boards across the United States. She also counsels employers on complex OSHA compliance issues. Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Shontell worked in the Office of General Counsel at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission for...
Hera S. Arsen, J.D., Ph.D. is Senior Marketing Counsel overseeing the firm's print and online legal publications and content. Hera, who joined Ogletree Deakins in 2003, is directly responsible for writing and editing the firm's national legal content, including coverage of federal agencies and the Supreme Court of the United States. She also oversees the Ogletree Deakins blog, which covers the latest legal news from over 20 practice-areas and jurisdictions. As leader of the firm's blog, Hera...