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OSHA Releases First-Ever National Heat Safety Rule

Source: Fisher Phillips, July 2, 2024

In a groundbreaking move, federal workplace safety officials announced today the first-ever national heat stress rule aimed at protecting workers from heat-related illnesses and fatalities. The proposed regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could soon require you to implement robust measures to safeguard your employees from extreme heat both indoors and outdoors – and significantly impact your workplace safety protocols, regardless of industry. The proposal still needs to wind its way through a months-long administrative process and could even be derailed by new standards set by the Supreme Court that take aim at agency overreach, so you’ll want to follow the process closely. What are the 10 steps you should consider taking to prepare for the new rule?

Why Did OSHA Propose Heat Safety Rule?

OSHA’s initiative, years in the making, follows an increase in heat-related workplace incidents and is part of its broader effort to address the impacts of climate change on occupational health. Currently, the agency relies on its broad General Duty Clause to enforce heat safety in the workplace, which requires employers to furnish a workplace free from recognized hazards which may cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

The agency has made clear it believes this broad standard is insufficient given the growing number of heat-related worker injuries and fatalities. OSHA noted that “heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States.” The new rule aims to build on existing state-level heat standards, such as those in California and several other states.

Who Will The Rule Apply To?

The proposed standard would apply to all employers conducting outdoor and indoor work in all general industry, construction, maritime, and agricultural sectors where OSHA has jurisdiction.

Who’s Not Covered By the New Rule?

Notably, the proposed rule excludes short-duration employee exposure to heat. Additionally, you will not need to apply these new rules to “sedentary” employees, those in indoor job sites kept below 80 degrees, and remote workers. The same holds true for emergency response workers who are exempted under the rules. Finally, OSHA regulations don’t cover public employees, so the new rules will not apply to government employers.

What Will the New Rule Require?

The proposed OSHA heat safety rule introduces several key requirements aimed at protecting workers from the hazards of excessive heat, including requiring employers to designate a heat safety coordinator and identify heat hazards in both outdoor and indoor worksites. These regulations are designed to address both immediate and long-term risks associated with heat exposure. 

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