“Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements.” – President Joe Biden
Amid the growing concerns of the increase in climate-related disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, extreme heat is finding a new place on this list. This week President Biden launched a coordinated, interagency effort to respond to the dangers of extreme heat, including an initiative on occupational heat exposure to protect outdoor workers, including agricultural, construction, and delivery workers, as well as indoor workers, including those in warehouses, factories, and kitchens.
“Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements,” said President Biden in a September 20, 2021, White House statement. “My Administration will not leave Americans to face this threat alone.”
“I am mobilizing an all-of-government effort to protect workers…the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies will work together to help ensure that the American people have safe and healthy working conditions…”
Heat Stress Standard
Currently, there is no federal OSHA standard or voluntary consensus standard that addresses the issue of heat stress. However, next month OSHA will issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The advance notice will initiate a comment period allowing OSHA to gather diverse perspectives and technical expertise on topics including heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers.
The White House called the rule a significant step toward a federal heat standard in U.S. workplaces and said officials will expand the scope of scheduled and unscheduled inspections to address heat-related hazards.
In 2019, the ANSI/ASSP A10 Committee proposed a heat stress management standard. BSR/ASSP A10.50 would establish minimum requirements for the prevention of heat illness and management of head stress hazards and exposures encountered during construction and demolition. ISEA is closing monitoring the status of this proposed standard.
Other OSHA Actions
On September 1, 2021, OSHA posted a memorandum for regional administrators and state designees on “Inspection Guidance for Head-Related Hazards.” In the memo, personal protective clothing and equipment are listed as general controls along with training, screening, and heat alert programs.
In addition, the agency is forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide a better understanding of challenges and to identify and share best practices to protect workers.
ISEA has informed OSHA the association and its members have the expertise and knowledge to be productive members of this workgroup.
ISEA’s board is evaluating these recent developments in the heat stress sector, and a plan of action should be proposed at ISEA’s annual business meeting.