OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for Heat-Related Hazards

by | Jan 21, 2024 | Construction Accident, Firm News, Industrial Accident

As climate change continues to impact global temperatures, the need to address heat-related hazards in the workplace becomes increasingly urgent. Recognizing the potential risks faced by workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has implemented a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Heat-Related Hazards. This targeted initiative aims to protect workers from the adverse effects of extreme heat conditions, ensuring their well-being and fostering a safer work environment.

OSHA’s NEP for Heat-Related Hazards is a comprehensive strategy designed to address and mitigate the risks associated with high temperatures in the workplace. The program focuses on industries with a high potential for heat-related illnesses and injuries, such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and transportation. By concentrating efforts on these sectors, OSHA aims to reduce the number of heat-related incidents and create a safer working environment for employees. One of the primary objectives of the NEP is to conduct thorough risk assessments in workplaces susceptible to heat-related hazards.

OSHA inspectors work closely with employers to identify potential sources of heat stress and assess the adequacy of existing preventive measures. Through this collaborative approach, the program aims to enhance awareness, identify vulnerabilities, and implement effective strategies to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.  OSHA explains:

This approach is intended to encourage early interventions by employers to prevent illnesses and deaths among workers during high heat conditions, such as working outdoors in a local area
experiencing a heat wave, as announced by the National Weather Service. Early interventions include, but are not limited to, implementing water, rest, shade, training, and acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

Educational outreach and training are utilized to equip both employers and employees with the knowledge and tools needed to combat heat-related hazards. The program encourages the development of comprehensive training programs that cover the recognition of heat-related illnesses, the importance of hydration, proper rest breaks, and the use of personal protective equipment. By promoting a culture of awareness and education, OSHA aims to empower workers to take measures to protect themselves against heat-related risks while also encouraging employers to protect their employees.

While educational initiatives play a crucial role, the NEP also incorporates a robust enforcement component to ensure compliance with heat-related safety standards. OSHA inspectors prioritize inspections in industries identified under the program, scrutinizing workplaces for adherence to established safety protocols. Non-compliance can result in penalties, emphasizing the seriousness with which OSHA regards the protection of workers from heat-related hazards.

The NEP issued identifies what an employer can expect OSHA to do during an inspection related to heat-related issues:

a) Review OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports for any entries indicating heat-related illness(es),
b) Review any records of heat-related emergency room visits and/or ambulance transport, even if hospitalizations did not occur, [this may require the use of a Medical Access Order],
c) Interview workers for symptoms of headache, dizziness, fainting, dehydration, or other conditions that may indicate heat-related illnesses, including both new employees and any employees who have recently returned to work,
d) Determine if the employer has a heat illness and injury program addressing heat exposure, and consider the following:
• Is there a written program?
• How did the employer monitor ambient temperature(s) and levels of work exertion at the worksite?
• Was there unlimited cool water that was easily accessible to the employees?
• Did the employer require additional breaks for hydration?
• Were there scheduled rest breaks?
• Was there access to a shaded area?
• Did the employer provide time for acclimatization of new and returning workers?
• Was a “buddy” system in place on hot days?
• Were administrative controls used (earlier start times, and employee/job rotation) to limit heat exposures?
• Did the employer provide training on heat illness signs, how to report signs and symptoms, first aid, how to contact emergency personnel, prevention, and the importance of hydration?

The inspection will also document conditions related to heat-related hazards at the work site.

OSHA’s NEP incorporates a commitment to ongoing data collection and research to better understand the evolving landscape of heat-related hazards. By staying informed about industry-specific challenges and emerging risks, the program can adapt its strategies and recommendations to effectively address the unique needs of different sectors. This commitment to research ensures that the program remains dynamic and responsive to the changing nature of workplace hazards associated with high temperatures.

Not surprisingly, even with the NEP in place, some employers will still fail to ensure their employees are taking proper rests, consuming enough water and staying cognizant of how they feel. This can become dangerous for any employee that is exposed to the heat. Sadly, these attitudes can lead to the injury or even death of an employee. If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace disfavored safety protocol for speed, you should contact a lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you investigate the incident to determine who was responsible and what safety measures were or were not in place.

Those touched by an work accident should know their legal rights and remedies, and act quickly to preserve them. Our attorneys have extensive experience in cases involving personal injury and wrongful death, including those caused by heat-related hazards.  The firm has experience in courts across the country and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or been seriously injured.

The experienced attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident at a work project.  Please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or 877-678-5864 to learn more about your legal rights.