The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a National Emphasis Program to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injuries. Through the program, OSHA will conduct heat-related workplace inspections before workers suffer completely preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.
Heat illness affects thousands of indoor and outdoor workers each year. The three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s. These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography.
“From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh said. “Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation.”
As part of the program, OSHA will initiate inspections in more than 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. On days when the heat index is 80 degrees or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance. Inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP.
“Our goal is to make it safe for workers in hot indoor and outdoor environments, so that they can return home safe and healthy at the end of each day,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said . “Working together, we can ensure workers know their rights and employers meet their obligations in order to protect workers from the growing dangers of extreme heat.”
OSHA’s area offices will engage in outreach to unions, employers in target industries and other organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved workers. The agency’s On-Site Consultation Program, a free and confidential health and safety consulting program for small- and medium-sized businesses, will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.
Read a fact sheet on OSHA’s National Emphasis Program concerning the increasing threat of heat related illness.
Learn more about working in outdoor and indoor heat environments.