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New Rule Proposed to Protect Workers From Extreme Heat

16 days ago

The U.S. Department of Labor has unveiled a proposed rule aimed at safeguarding millions of workers from the severe health risks posed by extreme heat. If finalized, this rule is expected to protect approximately 36 million workers in both indoor and outdoor settings, significantly reducing heat-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., and excessive workplace heat can result in heat stroke and even death. While heat hazards affect workers across various industries, workers of color are more likely to be employed in jobs with hazardous heat exposure.

"Every worker should come home safe and healthy at the end of the day, which is why the Biden-Harris administration is taking this significant step to protect workers from the dangers posed by extreme heat," said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. "As the most pro-worker administration in history, we are committed to ensuring that those doing difficult work in some of our economy’s most critical sectors are valued and kept safe in the workplace."

The proposed rule mandates that employers develop an injury and illness prevention plan to manage heat hazards in workplaces impacted by excessive heat. This plan would require employers to assess heat risks and, when necessary, implement measures such as providing drinking water, scheduling rest breaks and controlling indoor heat. Additionally, there would be provisions to protect new or returning workers who are not yet acclimated to high heat conditions.

"Workers all over the country are passing out, suffering heat stroke, and dying from heat exposure from just doing their jobs, and something must be done to protect them," Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said .

Employers would also need to provide training, have procedures to respond if a worker shows signs of heat-related illness, and take immediate action to assist a worker experiencing a heat emergency.

The public is encouraged to submit written comments on the rule once it is published in the Federal Register. The agency also anticipates holding a public hearing after the close of the written comment period. More information will be available on submitting comments once the rule is published.

In the meantime, OSHA continues to utilize existing outreach and enforcement resources to educate employers and workers, and to hold businesses accountable for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause and other applicable regulations. Record-breaking temperatures nationwide have heightened the risks workers face, particularly in the summer months. Each year, dozens of workers die and thousands more suffer from heat-related illnesses, which are often preventable.

OSHA remains proactive with heat-related inspections under its National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards, launched in 2022. This program targets workplaces with the highest heat-related hazards to prevent unnecessary injuries, illnesses and deaths. Since its inception, OSHA has conducted over 5,000 federal heat-related inspections.

Furthermore, the agency is prioritizing programmed inspections in agricultural industries employing temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor. These workers are particularly vulnerable due to potential language barriers, less control over their living and working conditions, and a lack of acclimatization, putting them at high risk of hazardous heat exposure.


Farmers Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.