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Department of Labor Announces Extreme Heat Hazard Alert, Steps Up Enforcement

Federal law requires employers to provide safe, healthy working conditions

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a heat hazard alert to remind employers of their obligation to protect workers against heat illness or injury in outdoor and indoor workplaces.

The department also announced that OSHA will intensify its enforcement where workers are exposed to heat hazards, with increased inspections in high-risk industries like construction and agriculture. These actions will fully implement the agency’s National Emphasis Program on heat, announced in April 2022, to focus enforcement efforts in geographic areas and industries with the most vulnerable workers.

The action comes as President Biden announced new actions to protect workers from extreme heat and new investments to protect communities, as historically high temperatures break records and expose millions of people to the serious dangers of heat in the workplace.

In October 2021, OSHA began the rulemaking process to consider a heat-specific workplace standard by publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register.

OSHA uses hazard alerts to provide specific information on safety and health hazards to employers, workers and other stakeholders. An alert describes the hazard and offers recommendations on how hazardous exposures can be eliminated or reduced and what actions employers should take to protect employees.

The alert issued does the following:

  • Highlights what employers can and should be doing now to protect employees;
  • Ensures employees are aware of their rights, including protections against retaliation;
  • Highlights steps OSHA is currently taking to protect workers; and
  • Directs employers, employees and the public to crucial OSHA resources, including guidance and fact sheets on heat.

As the rulemaking process for a proposed heat-specific workplace standard continues, OSHA has moved to protect workers from excess heat in the workplace by taking the following actions:

  • Developing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards;
  • Launching of a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections;
  • Creating the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health’s Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to understand challenges and share best practices to protect workers; and
  • Launching a Heat Illness Prevention campaign to educate employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat.

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