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Department of Labor Takes Critical Step in Heat Safety Rulemaking

Advisory committee approves unanimously to advance proposed rule

The Department of Labor has taken an important step in addressing the dangers of workplace heat and moved closer to publishing a proposed rule to reducing the significant health risks of heat exposure for U.S. workers in outdoor and indoor settings.

On April 24, 2024, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration presented the draft rule’s initial regulatory framework at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The committee, which advises the agency on safety and health standards and policy matters, unanimously recommended OSHA move forward expeditiously on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. As part of the rulemaking process, the agency will seek and consider input from a ride range of stakeholders and the public at-large as it works to propose and finalize its rule.

In the interim, OSHA continues to direct significant existing outreach and enforcement resources to educate employers and workers and hold businesses accountable for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause, 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1) and other applicable regulations.

The agency continues to conduct heat-related inspections under its National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards, launched in 2022. The program inspects workplaces with the highest exposures to heat-related hazards proactively to prevent workers from suffering injury, illness or death needlessly. Since the launch, OSHA has conducted nearly 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.

In addition, the agency is prioritizing programmed inspections in agricultural industries that employ temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor.

By law, employers must protect workers from the dangers of heat exposure and should have a proper safety and health plan in place. At a minimum, employers should provide adequate cool water, rest breaks and shade or a cool rest area. Employees who are new or returning to a high heat workplace should be allowed time to gradually get used to working in hot temperatures. Workers and managers should also be trained so they can identify and help prevent heat illness themselves.

For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov.

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