The Biden administration has announced an “all-of-government effort to protect workers, children, seniors, and at-risk communities from extreme heat.” In response, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will develop a new federal rule to protect workers from heat-related illnesses. OSHA will also prioritize inspections on hot days, targeting high-risk industries such as construction, timber, and agriculture.
Citing fatalities this summer in North Carolina, Virginia, California and Texas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the three-year average of worker heat-related deaths has doubled since the early 1990s. A third of these heat fatalities have occurred among Hispanic workers who make up only 17% of the affected workforce.
OSHA is expected to fast track its new heat standard in response to the administration’s demands. Employers in the construction, agricultural, and timber industries should be alert to changes in the OSHA standards. They should also plan on receiving additional attention from OSHA inspections during any hot weather periods. Employers should consult with their OSHA consultants and attorneys to make certain their safety manuals are up-to-date and that proper safety procedures are in place and in use.