top of page

Ensuring Compliance: What Employers Need to Know About OSHA's Proposed Heat Safety Rule

In a significant move toward safeguarding workers, the U.S. Department of Labor has introduced a proposed heat safety rule aimed at protecting millions from the health risks associated with extreme heat. This initiative by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could, once finalized, impact approximately 36 million workers across various industries, significantly reducing heat-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.


Heat is a leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States, posing significant health risks in the workplace. Excessive heat can lead to serious conditions such as heat stroke, which can be fatal. Workers of color are particularly vulnerable as they are more often employed in high-heat exposure jobs. This proposed rule is part of a broader effort to enhance worker safety across critical sectors of the economy.


For additional information regarding the heat safety rule and to find out how this could impact your business, please contact our Managing Partner, Richard Liu, at richard.liu@consultils.com.


work outside

Requirements of the Proposed Rule


The proposed OSHA heat safety rule includes several critical requirements aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat hazards, addressing both immediate and long-term risks associated with heat exposure.


1. Heat Hazard Identification and Assessment

  • Regular Risk Assessments: Employers must consistently evaluate potential heat hazards in various job roles and settings, identifying high-risk areas and tasks, particularly during peak heat periods.

  • Temperature and Humidity Monitoring: Systems must be in place to continuously monitor workplace temperatures and humidity levels, especially during heat waves or periods of extreme heat.


2. Preventive Measures

  • Hydration: Employers must ensure workers have access to drinking water at all times. Encouraging regular hydration is essential to prevent heat-related illnesses.

  • Rest Breaks: Scheduled rest breaks in cool or shaded areas are required to help workers recover from heat exposure. The frequency and duration of these breaks should increase with rising temperatures.

  • Shade and Cooling Areas: Employers must provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas conveniently located for workers to use during breaks.


3. Training and Education

  • Heat Safety Training: Comprehensive training programs must be established to educate employees and supervisors about heat-related illnesses, their symptoms, and preventive measures. This includes recognizing early signs of heat stress and administering appropriate first-aid responses. Annual refresher courses and additional training after changes in heat exposure or company policies are required.

  • Acclimatization Programs: Plans must be developed to gradually increase workloads and exposure times for new and returning workers to build their tolerance to heat.


4. Emergency Planning and Response

  • Heat Illness Prevention Plan: Employers with more than 10 employees must create a written plan to evaluate and control heat hazards, making it accessible to all workers. Employers with 10 or fewer employees can communicate this plan verbally. The plan must be reviewed and updated annually or following any heat-related incidents.

  • Emergency Medical Response: Employers must have a clear plan to handle heat-related emergencies. Supervisors and workers should be trained to provide first aid and contact emergency services promptly.


5. Recordkeeping and Reporting

  • Monitoring Data Maintenance: Employers are required to keep records of indoor temperature and humidity data for at least six months.

  • Incident Reporting: Detailed records of heat-related incidents, including illnesses and near-misses, must be maintained to review and improve heat safety practices.

  • Regular Audits: Regular audits of heat safety measures and compliance with the new standards are required to identify areas for improvement.


6. Additional Requirements for High-Risk Industries

  • Enhanced Protections: Industries with higher exposure to heat, such as agriculture and construction, may need to implement additional safeguards like more frequent rest breaks and specialized training.

  • Considerations for Vulnerable Workers: Extra protections must be provided for vulnerable workers, including temporary, seasonal, and immigrant workers, to ensure they receive adequate training and resources to manage heat stress.


Who Will the Rule Apply To?


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


Exemptions


The rule specifies several key exemptions to ensure practical application without unnecessary burdens:


  1. Short-Duration Heat Exposure: The rule excludes employees whose exposure to heat is brief and not likely to result in significant heat stress.

  2. Indoor Job Sites Below 80 Degrees: Work environments maintained below 80 degrees Fahrenheit are exempt from the rule, as these conditions are considered safe from heat-related hazards.

  3. Remote Workers: Employees working remotely are not covered by this rule since they typically do not face the same environmental heat stress as on-site workers.

  4. Emergency Response Workers: Personnel involved in emergency response operations are also exempt, acknowledging the unique and unpredictable nature of their work.

  5. Public Employees: OSHA regulations generally do not cover public sector employees, so the new rules will not apply to government employers.


work outside

Preparing for the New Rule


As the proposed rule progresses, employers should begin preparing by implementing the following measures:


  1. Develop a Heat Illness Prevention Plan: Conduct hazard analyses of job roles involving heat exposure and align your plan with any state-specific requirements.

  2. Educate Your Workforce: Implement comprehensive training programs on heat illness prevention and symptom recognition.

  3. Monitor Health Conditions: Designate individuals to monitor worker health during extreme heat and consider implementing a buddy system.

  4. Implement Rest Breaks: Ensure regular rest breaks in shaded or cool areas, adjusting the frequency based on temperature conditions.

  5. Ensure Hydration: Provide unlimited access to cool water and encourage regular hydration.

  6. Provide Shade and Cooling: Make shaded areas and cooling fans accessible, and provide protective gear such as hats for outdoor workers.

  7. Adjust Work Schedules: Modify work hours to avoid peak heat periods, and rotate crews to minimize exposure during the hottest parts of the day.

  8. Acclimatize Workers: Gradually increase workloads for new or returning workers to build heat tolerance.

  9. Prepare for Emergencies: Ensure immediate access to first aid and prompt medical attention for workers showing signs of heat-related illnesses.


The proposed rule is currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and will be open for public comment once published in the Federal Register. The final rule is expected to be published in the first half of 2025, although its implementation could be influenced by political changes or legal challenges.


Employers are encouraged to stay informed and proactive in enhancing heat safety measures. By prioritizing worker safety and complying with evolving regulations, businesses can protect their workforce from heat-related illnesses and fatalities.


For additional information regarding the heat safety rule and to find out how this could impact your business, please contact our Managing Partner, Richard Liu, at richard.liu@consultils.com.


 
Richard Liu

Richard Liu, Esq. is the Managing Counsel of ILS. He serves clients as a management-side defense lawyer specializing in employment and business litigation. Richard is also an expert on litigation prevention and compliance. He regularly advises Fortune 500 companies and startups on employment, labor, and commercial matters.


Email: richard.liu@consultils.com | Phone: 626-344-8949


*Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal opinion and does not create any attorney-client relationship.

Comments


bottom of page