US Department of Labor issues heat hazard alert, steps up inspections in construction

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A construction worker takes a drink from a plastic water bottle on a hot day. OSHA is seeking submissions for a new campaign aimed at combatting heat-related work problems. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a heat hazard alert to remind employers of their obligation to protect workers against heat illness or injury.

The move comes as scientists confirmed that July was on track to be the world’s hottest month on record.

OSHA will also intensify its enforcement where workers are exposed to heat hazards, with increased inspections in high-risk industries like construction, the Department of Labor said.

OSHA’s guidance on heat illness prevention for both employers and workers is available here.

Since 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 436 people have died due to workplace heat exposure, with an annual average of 38 deaths between 2011 to 2019.

Statistics also show that people who work in conditions without adequate climate-control face higher risks of hazardous heat exposure and that these situations disproportionately expose people of colour to hazardous heat, the Department of Labor added.

In October 2021, OSHA began the rulemaking process to consider a heat-specific workplace standard by publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register.

Assistant secretary for occupational safety and health Doug Parker said, “As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration works toward proposing a rule to protect workers from heat illness, we are taking several measures today to better protect workers in extreme heat.”

“Employers have a duty to protect workers by reducing and eliminating hazards that expose workers to heat illness or injury.”

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