While recent weather may not have us thinking about summer and high temperatures just yet, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced earlier this month the implementation of a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) related to heat injuries and illnesses for both outdoor and indoor workers. This NEP is effective from April 8, 2022 through April 8, 2025.
Several factors that often contribute to extreme heat in the workplace include high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, and strenuous physical activities. Heat-induced injury or illness can be severe, with symptoms ranging from loss of concentration, irritability or sickness to fainting or even death.
OSHA does not have a permanent safety standard for hazards stemming from heat-related injuries and illnesses; however, OSHA’s compliance safety and health officers had been previously issued inspection guidance focusing on heat-related hazards. Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor, stated that “This enforcement program is another step towards our goal of a federal heat standard.”
What is a National Emphasis Program?
Per OSHA, NEPs are temporary programs that focus OSHA’s resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. OSHA determines these temporary programs by reviewing inspection data, injury and illness data, NIOSH reports, analysis of inspection findings, and more. OSHA’s NEP on outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards is intended to not only protect employees from heat-related hazards and resulting injuries, but also to encourage early interventions by employers.
Details of the New NEP
Each year, workers suffer over 3,500 injuries and illnesses related to heat. OSHA’s extreme heat NEP aims to prevent heat-related illnesses in targeted industries and activities. OSHA will be focusing on industries that have the highest potential to expose workers to heat-related hazards that may result in illnesses and death. OSHA’s NEP identifies 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings, including:
- Farming and agriculture
- Waste collection
- Landscaping services
- Postal and package delivery services
- Oil and gas well operations
- Bakeries and restaurants
- Automotive parts, accessories and tire stores
- Fire services
- Iron and steel mills and foundries
- Certain manufacturing plans
- Warehousing and storage facilities
What does this mean for employers?
On days when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, OSHA inspectors will proactively engage in outreach and compliance assistance to help keep workers safe on the job for the targeted industries. Even if you are not one of the 70 high-risk industries identified in the NEP, OSHA will continue to inspect any alleged heat-related fatality or catastrophe, complaint or referral.
All employers should proactively protect workers from heat hazards. OSHA has prepared guidance for protecting workers from heat stress. Below are steps that you make take now to protect your workers from extreme heat:
- Assign someone to monitor workers’ health and conditions on days of extreme heat;
- Develop a prevention program for mitigating heat-related injuries and illnesses, including a component for employee awareness;
- Determine specific job duties or position that may be exposed to extreme heat;
- Review several years’ worth of your organization’s OSHA logs to see whether there have been any heat-related injuries or illnesses.
States Not Covered by Federal OSHA
State Plans are required to submit a notice of intent indicating whether they already have a similar policy in place, intend to adopt new policies and procedures, or do not intend to adopt OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for heat-related injuries and illnesses. Consult with your state agency if you operate in an area covered by a State Plan. If your state does not currently have a similar policy in place, consider OSHA’s NEP as best practice.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more, reach out to the RCM&D Risk Consulting team today. We can help ensure your organization is up-to-date and in compliance with OSHA standards and more.