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OSHA launches NEP on indoor, outdoor heat hazards
For the first time, the new National Emphasis Program (NEP) creates a nationwide enforcement mechanism to proactively inspect workplaces for heat-related hazards (outdoors and/or indoors) in general industry, maritime, construction, or agricultural operations.
OSHA plans to initiate programmed (pre-planned) inspections in over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or an advisory for a local area. Appendix A lists the affected industries. The NEP exempts farming operations with 10 or fewer employees, excluding farm employers’ family members, during the previous 12 months and no active temporary labor camp during the preceding 12 months. It became effective April 8, 2022 and will remain in effect for three years unless cancelled or extended.
Inspectors will also “look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP,” and if heat hazards are identified open a separate, heat-related inspection. On days when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in outreach and technical assistance to help employers keep workers safe on the job.
A NEP is a temporary program that focuses OSHA’s resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. In October, OSHA published a proposal to create a permanent safety standard for hazards stemming from heat-related injuries and illnesses. Under the NEP, OSHA’s primary enforcement mechanism remains the General Duty Clause. However, several other standards may be applicable, including use of personal protective equipment, sanitation (potable water), medical services and first aid, and recordkeeping.
During a heat-related inspection, CSHOs will:
- Review employers’ OSHA 300 injury and illness logs and 301 incident reports for entries indicating heat-related illnesses.
- Review any records of heat-related emergency room visits and/or ambulance transport even if in-patient hospitalization did not occur.
- Determine if the employer has a heat illness and injury program.
- Interview workers, including both new employees and any employees who have recently returned to work, for symptoms of dehydration, dizziness, fainting, headache, or other conditions that may indicate heat-related illnesses.
By June 7, 2022, State OSHA Plans must submit a notice of intent indicating whether they already have a similar policy or intend to adopt new policies and procedures. OSHA will provide summary information on the State Plan responses to the NEP on its State Plan Adoption of Federal OSHA Standards and Directive website.
A standard already exists in some states.California, Oregon, and Washington have heat stress or heat illness prevention standards, and Minnesota has a state standard for work in cold and hot environments.
What should employers do now?
Heat illness is not new and the control measures are well-documented. It’s a good idea to review your OSHA logs to determine if there have been work-related heat injuries or illnesses and how these were addressed. If you haven’t already done so, conduct a hazard analysis of job duties or positions that could involve exposure to extreme heat, including an analysis of outdoor and indoor workspaces.
CSHOs are directed to determine if the employer has a heat illness and injury program. Employers should be able to provide a written program and demonstrate implementation of the program including:
- Heat-acclimatization periods for new and returning workers
- How the employer monitors ambient temperatures and levels of work exertion at the worksite
- Unlimited cool water that is easily accessible to all employees, and additional breaks for hydration
- Scheduled rest breaks, with access to shaded areas
- Administrative controls such as earlier start times and employee/job rotation that are used to limit heat exposures
- A “buddy” system of worker observation used on hot days
- Documented training on heat illness signs, how to report signs and symptoms, first aid, how to contact emergency personnel, prevention, and the importance of hydration
If you operate in California, Minnesota, Oregon, or Washington be sure you comply with existing standards.