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OSHA moves step closer to worker heat protection rule


The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday announced that it has moved closer to publishing a proposed rule to offer greater workplace heat protections to employees in both outdoor and indoor settings.

OSHA said it presented a draft rule during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health in late April.

The committee subsequently recommended that the agency move forward with an expedited notice of proposed rulemaking.

“OSHA is working aggressively to develop a new regulation that keeps workers safe from the dangers of heat,” Assistant OSHA Secretary Doug Parker said in a statement. “As we move through the required regulatory process for creating these protections, OSHA will use all of its existing tools to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect workers from known hazards such as heat.”

OSHA said that in the interim, it has prioritized programmed inspections in the agricultural industry that employs temporary, seasonal, nonimmigrant workers through the H-2A program. Those workers are at a particularly high risk for hazardous heat exposure, the agency said.

While the rulemaking process on heat protections moves forward, OSHA said it continues to direct “significant existing outreach and enforcement resources” to help educate employers on the Occupational Safety and Health’s Act general duty clause, which, in the absence of a heat protection rule, is used to cite employers for various violations, including dangerous heat exposure.