In response to growing heat-related illnesses in the workplace, Fed-OSHA has announced a new program aimed at preventing such illness.
Extreme heat is becoming more frequent and severe during the spring and summer. In the summer of 2021, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees on three consecutive days - in Seattle, a normally temperate city. Hotter temperatures have become the norm in many parts of the country, particularly in the West and Southwest.
Extreme temperatures pose a risk to human health, particularly to people who work in these conditions. Between 2015 and 2019, an average of 35 workers died annually from heat-related illness and another 2,700 annual cases resulted in missed work time.
OSHA's National Emphasis Program is intended to encourage employers to intervene early to prevent illnesses and deaths among workers during high-heat conditions announced by the National Weather Service (NWS).
It will put particular focus on many outdoor services industries, indoor manufacturing environments, warehousing, and nursing care facilities.
The program will consist of increased inspections of facilities on days when the NWS has issued heat advisories or warnings for the local area.
OSHA inspectors investigating unrelated matters will ask employers about their heat illness prevention measures. They will use the answers to assess the employer's exposure to potential heat-related illness and assist them as needed to prevent it.
Even if OSHA is not looking for prevention programs, employers should implement them to prevent heat-related illness because of the potentially severe effects. For example, the California state government requires employers vulnerable to these problems to provide:
From both a moral and business perspective, employers should protect their employees from workplace hazards, including those related to high heat levels.
People will want to work for employers who care about their safety. OSHA expects it. Extreme heat conditions are a problem that all employers must take seriously.
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