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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new enforcement program aimed at preventing heat-related illnesses in construction and other high-risk industries by inspecting worksites when heat advisory or warnings are issued.

U.S. Secretary Marty Walsh joined Vice President Kamala Harris last week at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia to announce the new enforcement program. Walsh said reducing workplace heat-related illnesses is a top priority, and the National Emphasis Program, will improve compliance while long-term work on OSHA heat illness prevention rules continues.

On days when the heat index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help employers keep workers safe on the job both indoors and outdoors. Inspectors will look for heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP.

“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s,” Walsh said. “These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers.”

OSHA’s area offices will engage in outreach to unions, employers in target industries and other organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved workers. The agency’s On-Site Consultation Program, a free and confidential health and safety consulting program for small- and medium-sized businesses, will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.

Currently OSHA relies on the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to cite employers as it works on adopting a standard specifically addressing the hazard of heat. It has published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register and will hold a public stakeholder meeting on May 3.

According to the law firm Jackson Lewis, the list of 70 high-risk industries affected by the enforcement program includes both construction and non-construction businesses. The non-construction industries include:

  • Certain farming and agricultural industries;
  • Bakeries and tortilla manufacturing;
  • Sawmills and wood preservation;
  • Various employers in the manufacturing sector such as petroleum and coal, glass, iron and steel mills, foundries, nonferrous metal production and processing, motor vehicles, aerospace products and parts, household and institutional furniture and kitchen cabinets;
  • A variety of merchant wholesalers;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores;
  • Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores;
  • Couriers and express delivery services;
  • Local messengers and local delivery;
  • Warehousing and storage;
  • Lessors of real estate;
  • Landscaping services, tree removal and tree trimming services;
  • Waste collection and waste treatment and disposal;
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities);
  • Automotive repair and maintenance;
  • Car dealers;
  • Business support services;
  • Investigation and security services;
  • Office administrative services;
  • Facilities support services;
  • Educational support services;
  • Restaurants; and
  • Employment services/temp agencies to the extent they place employees with any host employer covered by the NEP.