Heat stress results in dozens of fatalities and thousands of illnesses each year for workers in hot and humid environments. Although OSHA’s heat stress campaign dates back to 2011, the National Emphasis Program that went into effect in 2022 places heat stress near the top of OSHA’s enforcement list. If your company’s operations expose workers to hot and humid conditions, a heat stress prevention program should be part of your safety management process.
Heat stress is as prevalent in industries where employees work indoors as it is where they work outdoors. Steel mills, foundries, bakeries, manufacturing, and other workplaces with heat-generating equipment can be as hazardous as outdoor occupations such as construction, landscaping, agriculture, and oil/gas. Occupations with heavy physical activity, those that require employees to wear additional clothing or personal protective equipment, or those that don’t allow time for acclimatization have a higher level of heat stress risk.
Fortunately, OSHA has a wealth of resources to help ensure your heat stress prevention program is a success. Their Heat Stress Campaign Page and Occupational Exposure to Heat pages provide employers with training information, brochures, info graphics, links for resources from other agencies, as well as a heat stress app. Information is also available on the National Heat Stress Emphasis Program, so you can become familiar with what the inspectors will be focused on if they visit your site/facility for heat-related exposures.
The National Emphasis program will be in place for the next two years. It requires the following when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher:
- Increased inspection/assistance activity any day the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory/warning
- Proactive inspections for high-risk industries (Industries are targeted based on incident rates and days away from work due to heat-related illness.)
- Implementation of heat stress safety practices such as water, rest and shade, as well as acclimatizing new or returning employees.
- Proactive outreach by OSHA relative to heat stress awareness
About Oswald’s Loss Control Team:
Oswald’s Risk Consulting services are designed to reduce your exposure to liability and loss, while also lessening the frequency and severity of losses. Our dedicated specialists are highly experienced. They work closely with you to develop and maintain successful safety and risk management loss prevention.
For more information visit our Risk Consulting & Loss Control page or contact me directly:
Adam Thomas, ARM, AINS, CXLT
Senior Loss Control Consultant
This post was originally published in May 2022; updated June 2023.
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