OSHA Extends Comment Period for Heat Hazards
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending the comment period for its new regulations for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. The comment period is extended until Jan. 26, 2022.
The premise behind the extension is to give stakeholders more time to review the rules and collect necessary data and other information.
OSHA does not currently have a heat-specific standard to protect millions of workers from hazardous heat exposure, so it has initiated several efforts to protect workers from heat-related illness and even death.
In addition to the new rule, OSHA instituted a heated-related enforcement initiative and will issue a National Emphasis Program for all heat-related safety efforts in 2022.
The new heat-related rule was first published in October 2021. Comments can be submitted electronically for Docket No. OSHA-2021-0009 on www.regulations.gov. The federal e-rulemaking portal is the only way to submit comments.
Each year, millions of workers are exposed to heat in their workplaces and while heat illness is preventable, thousands become sick each year from occupational heat exposure. Some cases are fatal.
Most fatalities occur within the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body is not yet tolerant to the heat and needs time to adjust.
Lack of heat acclimation represents a major risk factor for fatal outcomes.
The human body relies on its own ability to get rid of excess heat to maintain a healthy internal body temperature. Heat dissipation happens naturally through increased blood flow to the skin and sweating. Workers cool down more rapidly if the heat and physical activity are reduced.
When heat dissipation does not occur quickly enough, the internal body temperature keeps rising and the worker can experience symptoms such as irritability, thirst, cramps, rash, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke.
Heatstroke is the most severe heat-related illness. In addition, workers experience mental dysfunction such as confusion, unconsciousness, disorientation, or slurred speech.
Some workers are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses than others. Personal risk factors include lack of physical fitness, medical conditions, previous episodes of heat-related illness, alcohol consumption, drugs, etc.
Project management should commit to preventing heat-related illness for all employees. Measuring heart rate, body weight, or body temperature can provide data to aid in work decisions related to heat control.
Hazardous heat exposure can occur indoors or outdoors during any season if the conditions are right. It is not an issue only during heat waves. Here are some industries where workers have suffered heat-related illnesses.
Construction – especially roads, roofing, and other outdoor work
Employers should create plans to protect workers from developing heat-related illnesses. Create a written plan, including daily oversight, how workers can gradually become more heat tolerant, have proper first aid equipment available and set up engineering controls to minimize heat exposure.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.