OSHA heat standard would strengthen guidelines

The Department of Labor is being asked to consider establishing an OSHA heat protection standard for U.S. workers. The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is petitioning OSHA on behalf of several organizations and individuals, including former OSHA officials and medical professionals.

The meat of the OSHA heat protection standard concerns setting mandatory break requirements at predetermined heat thresholds, and it includes provisions for access to shade and PPE (link) such as breathable fabrics and cooling vests.

Other OSHA heat standard suggestions include:

  • Heat exposure monitoring
  • Heat acclimation plans
  • Medical monitoring for heat exposure
  • Signage alerting workers to heat stress dangers
  • Instructor-led worker training
  • Better record keeping for heat-related injuries and deaths
  • And, protection for whistleblowers alerting authorities to unsafe conditions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 783 heat-related deaths and more than 69,000 heat-related injuries in the U.S. between 1992 and 2016.

There is no current OSHA heat standard: the General Duty Clause requires a workplace “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”  OSHA does offer guidelines on preventing workers from suffering heat stroke and other related illnesses.

Heat safety is of critical concern at SCT, where we have jobsites dotting the nation – including several in warmer parts of the country.  At our jobsites in California, where we help tear down and rebuild glass furnaces, for example, heat-related injuries are always top of mind. SCT put together a short educational video to highlight some ways to work safely when the mercury rises. Our YouTube Channel features dozens of useful, high-quality safety videos that will keep your employees engaged and help them stay safe.

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