Record-breaking heat in the U.S. in 2021 endangered millions of workers who were exposed to heat illness and injury in both indoor and outdoor work environments. Without adequate climate-controlled environments, workers in outdoor and indoor work settings are at risk of hazardous heat exposure. Workers of color are exposed disproportionately to hazardous levels of heat in essential jobs across these work settings.
In concert with a Biden-Harris administration interagency effort and its commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings on October 27, 2021. Currently, OSHA does not have a specific standard for hazardous heat conditions and this action begins the process to consider a heat-specific workplace rule.
“As we continue to see temperatures rise and records broken, our changing climate affects millions of America’s workers who are exposed to tough and potentially dangerous heat,” said U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “We know a disproportionate number of people of color perform this critical work and they, like all workers, deserve protections. We must act now to address the impacts of extreme heat and to prevent workers from suffering the agony of heat illness or death.”
The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will initiate a comment period to gather diverse perspectives and expertise on topics, such as heat-stress thresholds, heat-acclimatization planning and exposure monitoring.
“While heat illness is largely preventable and commonly underreported, thousands of workers are sickened each year by workplace heat exposure, and in some cases, heat exposure can be fatal,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings is an important part of our multi-pronged initiative to protect indoor and outdoor workers from hazardous heat.”
Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards. To help address this threat, OSHA implemented a nationwide enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, is developing a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections, and 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 identify and share best practices to protect workers.
Submission instructions can be found in the Federal Register notice. Beginning October 27, submit comments at the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal and refer to Docket No. OSHA-2021-0009. All comments must be submitted by December 27, 2021.
You can read President Biden’s statement on Mobilizing the Administration to Address Extreme Heat here.