The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is implementing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) intended to protect workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses in both outdoor and indoor workplaces.
NEPs are temporary programs that focus OSHA’s resources intensely on particular hazards in high-hazard industries. Considerable enforcement resources are dedicated to these efforts.
A measure of the administration’s commitment to this particular NEP can be seen by the fact that it was announced by Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Vice President Kamala Harris in April at a union training center in Philadelphia.
Employers in the warehousing and storage industry are among those targeted, along with construction and a long list of manufacturing industries. Others include couriers and express delivery services, and rail and truck freight transportation
OSHA says the NEP is designed to encourage early interventions by employers to prevent illnesses and deaths among workers during high heat conditions. It adds that early interventions can include implementing water, rest, shade, training, and acclimatization procedures for all employees.
The program also will require inspectors to ask during non-heat inspections whether the employer has a heat-related hazard prevention program that applies when the heat index for the day is expected to be 80° F or more, explains attorney Arthur G. Sapper of the Ogletree Deakins law firm.
The agency’s inspectors will rely on heat index ranges in the National Weather Services’ heat index chart – “Caution” (80° F – 90° F), “Extreme Caution” (91° F – 103° F), “Danger” (103° F – 124° F), and “Extreme Danger” (126° F or higher).
However, as Sapper notes, in a case that was handled previously by an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission administrative law judge these temperature ranges were found to lack any real scientific basis.