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OSHA and heat illness prevention rules

OSHA and heat illness prevention rules

OSHA and heat illness prevention rules

This is our last blog of 2023. We hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and we will see you again in 2024!

In September, when temperatures were still high, we looked at how to prevent heat illness. Since then, there has been some news on the regulatory side of this topic. While temperatures have dropped across much of the U.S. and it feels like fall has finally arrived, OSHA still has its eye on hot weather. Record-breaking heat waves swept the country this summer, and OSHA is crafting new standards designed to protect workers from heat related illnesses.

Working Outside

30 million Americans work outside. And many others work indoors in high temperatures. These workers are at risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The risks increase if the workers have heart or kidney disease or neurological disorders.

Heat-related Illnesses

Having heat stroke makes you more likely to suffer heat stroke in the future. And doctors are finding that heat illnesses that require hospitalization can lead to stroke, heart, and kidney disease. Not to mention, heat stroke routinely kills people. 

Currently, there are no federal heat safety rules. OSHA has a national emphasis program on heat illness prevention, but it is educational. There are no regulations to enforce.

State rules

Some states have heat illness prevention rules. California, for example, requires employers to let employees acclimatize to working in high temperatures or high humidity. They also mandate rest breaks in the shade. Doctors would like to see medical monitoring added as part of heat illness prevention, similar to the medical checkups required prior to wearing a respirator.

Heat illness experts and lawmakers feel that the states without heat illness rules are not going to adopt them on their own. That’s why there has been a push to implement rules at the federal level.

OSHA is in the middle of a long process to craft these rules, determining what the regulations will look like and finding ways to make them less burdensome on small businesses. 

Further Reading

Click here to read an article on OSHA's plan to implement rules on heat illness prevention

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