OSHA Launches National Emphasis Program
On April 12, 2022, OSHA launched its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for protecting workers from heat hazards in indoor and outdoor workplaces. Through the program, OSHA will conduct heat-related workplace inspections before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses, or fatalities. The NEP is effective on April 8, 2022 and will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended by a superseding directive.
The NEP targets over 70 industries that present a high risk for heat illness. OSHA identified these industries based on Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA report data, which finds that high-risk industries exhibit the following:
- High numbers or incidence rates of heat-related illnesses;
- An elevated number of days away from work or high numbers of severe cases of heat-related illnesses;
- The highest number of heat-related general duty clause violations and hazard alert letters over a five-year period; or
- The highest number of OSHA heat inspections since 2017.
A list of target industries for the Heat NEP is available in Appendix A of the directive.
The NEP encourages employers to protect their workers from heat hazards during heat priority days by providing them with access to water, rest, shade, adequate training, and acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.
The NEP establishes heat priority days when the heat index is expected to be 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. On those priority days, OSHA will:
- Initiate compliance assistance in the targeted high-risk industries; and
- Continue to investigate any alleged heat-related fatality/catastrophe, complaint, or referral regardless of whether the worksite falls within a targeted NEP industry.
General controls include training, personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering, work practice and administrative controls, health screening and heat alert programs.
- Hazards of heat-related illnesses.
- How to avoid heat-related illnesses by recognizing and avoiding situations that can lead to heat-related illnesses.
- Recognition of signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
- First aid procedures.
- Employer’s program to address heat-related illnesses.
Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment:
- Hats for work outdoors in the sun.
- For indoor work, loosely worn reflective clothing designed to deflect radiant heat, such as vests, aprons or jackets.
- Cooling vests and water-cooled/dampened garments may be effective under high temperature and low humidity conditions. However, be aware that cooling vests can become an insulator when they reach the body’s temperature.
- In environments where respirator usage is necessary, consult with an industrial hygienist to determine the appropriate clothing to prevent heat stress while still protecting the workers.
- Consider the use of dermal patches for monitoring core temperature to better identify when workers need to be removed from the work area.
- Consider the use of heart rate monitoring to better identify when workers need to be removed from the work area. Both sustained (180 bpm minus age) and recovery (120 bpm after a peak work effort) heart rates are recommended guidelines for limiting heat strain.
Engineering Practice Controls:
- Use air conditioning
- Increase general ventilation
- Provide cooling fans
- Run local exhaust ventilation where heat is produced (e.g., laundry vents)
- Use reflective shields to block radiant heat
- Insulate hot surfaces (e.g., furnace walls)
- Stop leaking steam
- Provide shade for outdoor work sites
Administrative and Work Practice Controls:
- Schedule hot jobs for cooler parts of the workday; schedule routine maintenance and repair work during cooler seasons of the year when possible.
- Provide adequate, cool drinking water on the worksite that is easily accessible and permit employees to take frequent rest and water breaks.
- Use relief workers and reduce physical demands of the job.
- Use work/rest schedules.
- Educate your workforce on where to take breaks in temperature controlled environments such as trucks and nearby or job trailers.
Health Screening and Acclimatization:
- Allow new workers to get used to hot working environments by using a staggered approach over 7-14 days. For example, new workers should begin work with 20% of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, and then gradually increase the time over a 7–14-day period. The same should be done for workers returning from an absence of three or more days, starting with 50% of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, then staging acclimatization over three consecutive days.
- Advise workers that certain medications can increase risk of heat stress. These include:
- Amphetamines – sometimes prescribed for narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Diuretics – water pills
- Antihypertensives – blood pressure medication
- Anticholinergics – for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and
- Antihistamines – allergy medications
- In addition, alert workers to the dangers of using illegal drugs and alcohol in hot work environments. Illegal amphetamines, such as methamphetamine, are particularly hazardous when heat stress is present.
- Some conditions, such as pregnancy, fever, gastrointestinal illness, heart disease, and obesity, may increase the risk of heat-related illness. Advise workers to check with their doctors if they have any questions. (Please note: the employer is NOT entitled to know whether workers have these conditions, but only whether workers have any health conditions that limit their ability to perform their job duties. In some instances, workers with chronic conditions may need extra time to become acclimatized or may need other accommodations, such as more frequent breaks or restricted work.)
- Encourage workers to consult a doctor or pharmacist if they have questions about whether they are at increased risk for heat-related illness because of health conditions they have and/or medications they take.
Warnings, Alerts & Advisories Issued by the National Weather Service
The following types of warnings, alerts, and advisories may be issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or National Weather Service (NWS):
- Heat Advisory – Take Action! A Heat Advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Advisory is that the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 100°F or higher for at least 2 days and nighttime air temperatures will not drop below 75°F.
- Heat Wave – Take Action! A heat wave is forecast by NWS or a local news station. A heat wave is when the daily maximum temperature exceeds 95°F or when the daily maximum temperature exceeds 90°F and is 9°F or more above the maximum reached on the preceding days.
- Excessive Heat Warning – Take Action! An Excessive Heat Warning is issued within 12 hours of the onset of extremely dangerous heat conditions. The general rule of thumb for this Warning is that the maximum heat index temperature is expected to be 105°F or higher for at least 2 days and nighttime air temperatures will not drop below 75°F.
- Excessive Heat Watches – Be Prepared! Heat watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hours. A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.
- Excessive Heat Outlooks – Be Prepared! Outlooks are issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days. An Outlook provides information to those who need considerable lead-time to prepare for the event.
White House Fact Sheet – interagency effort and commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice, September 20, 2021.
Federal Register, 86 FR 59309, 29 CFR § 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1926, and 1928, Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor.
There are also State Plans with Heat Standards in Minnesota, California and Washington.
In addition, OSHA has a number of outreach materials available via their website at osha.gov.
If you have questions or would like additional information, please reach out to your local HUB Risk Consultant to get the conversation started.
Data provided by HUB International
Neither Hub International Limited nor any of its affiliated companies is a law or accounting firm, and therefore they cannot provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is provided for general information only, and is not intended to constitute legal or tax advice as to an organization’s specific circumstances. It is based on Hub International’s understanding of the law as it exists on the date of this publication. Subsequent developments may result in this information becoming outdated or incorrect and Hub International does not have an obligation to update this information. You should consult an attorney, accountant, or other legal or tax professional regarding the application of the general information provided here to your organization’s specific situation in light of your organization’s particular needs.