New OSHA Program Aims to Protect Workers From Heat Injuries

April 15, 2022

After months of gathering expert input on methods to monitor and combat extreme heat in the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this week launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect workers from heat illness and injuries.

Through the program, OSHA investigators will conduct workplace inspections to prevent employees from suffering heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other illnesses caused by extreme temperatures. OSHA will initiate inspections at indoor and outdoor work settings in high-risk industries when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. When the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, inspectors will offer technical assistance to help employers keep their workers safe.

The NEP has been in the works for months as an effort to protect workers during increasing temperatures due to climate change, as well as unhospitable indoor conditions. Reducing workplace heat-related illnesses and injuries has been a priority for OSHA as the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s.

“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,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “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 will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.

Employers are invited to join a public stakeholder meeting on May 3 to discuss OSHA’s ongoing activities to protect workers from heat-related hazards. Register for the event here.