OSHA Seeks Input for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Standard

OSHA is seeking feedback from operators of small businesses on a potential standard to address occupational heat exposure in outdoor and indoor work settings. Panels will be convened virtually to listen to comments on possible options for a standard.

  • Who can participate? Small businesses, small, local government entities and non-profit entities. Check below in this article or the SBA Table of Size Standards to see if you qualify or contact OSHA or SBA Advocacy for assistance.
  • Which industries can participate? Feedback is welcomed from a wide range of sectors and any industry that might be affected by a potential standard. See below in this article for a list of industries that may be most affected.
  • How would you participate? Review potential options for a heat-specific standard and provide input during a small-group videoconference with other participants.
  • Interested in participating? Contact Bruce Lundegren from the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration (SBA), Bruce.Lundegren@sba.gov, (202) 205-6144 or OSHA at OSHAEvents_DSG@dol.gov.

Serve on review board?

OSHA plans to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel in 2023 to work on developing the potential standard, Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. It is looking for representatives from small businesses, small local government entities and non-profit entities to serve as small entity representatives (SERs).

OSHA plans to regulate workplace exposure to hazardous heat, and the standard could cover outdoor and indoor work in any/all General Industry, Construction, Maritime and Agriculture sectors where OSHA has jurisdiction. Therefore, OSHA is seeking participation from a wide range of sectors and welcomes SERs from any industry that might be affected. The Agency is particularly interested in feedback from industries that it expects to be most affected by such a standard, including the following industries:

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Building-Material Suppliers
  • Commercial Kitchens
  • Construction, Telecommunications and Utilities
  • Drycleaners and Commercial Laundry
  • Fire Protection
  • Landscaping, Facilities Support, Maintenance and Repair
  • Manufacturing
  • Material Handling, Transportation and Warehousing
  • Oil and Gas
  • Recreation and Amusement
  • Waste Management

SBAR/SBREFA

In accordance with the requirements of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), OSHA will be convening the SBAR Panel in 2023. The Panel, comprised of members from the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration (SBA), OSHA, and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will listen to SERs who would potentially be affected by the standard and issue a report following the Panel. Each small entity selected to serve as a SER will be sent information to review on potential options that OSHA has identified, and then be asked to participate in a small-group videoconference to discuss any concerns or other input related to the information provided – specifically relating to how a regulation might potentially affect the operations of their workplace.

OSHA will host several SBAR Panel videoconferences. These videoconferences will be open for the public to listen to but not participate in. Each SER will be asked to participate in one of the videoconferences.

About the potential standard

Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather-related phenomena in the United States. Excessive heat exacerbates existing health conditions like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease, and can cause heat stroke and even death if not treated properly and promptly. Workers in both outdoor and indoor work settings without adequate climate controls are at risk of hazardous heat exposure.

Certain heat-generating processes, machinery and equipment (e.g., hot tar ovens, furnaces, etc.) can also cause hazardous heat when cooling measures are not in place. Some groups may be more likely to experience adverse health effects from heat, such as pregnant workers, while others are disproportionately exposed to hazardous levels of heat, such as workers of color in essential jobs who are more often employed in work settings with high risk of hazardous heat exposure.

Heat-related illness means adverse clinical health outcomes that occur due to exposure to hazardous heat. Heat-related injury means an injury linked to heat exposure that is not considered one of the typical symptoms of heat-related illness, such as a fall or cut.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries estimates there have been 33,890 work-related heat injuries and illnesses involving days away from work from 2011–2020, with an average of 3,389 injuries and illnesses of this severity occurring per year during this period. Additionally, according to the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, exposure to environmental heat has killed 999 U.S. workers from 1992–2021, with an average of 33 fatalities per year during that time period.

However, statistics for occupational heat-related illnesses, injuries, and fatalities are likely vast underestimates for several reasons, such as the varying nature of heat-related symptoms, including their impact on decision-making abilities, and the latent health issues from heat exposure that are not initially recorded. Also, the definition of heat-related illnesses often varies by jurisdiction, leading to inconsistent reporting by medical professionals. In addition, these datasets heavily rely on self-reported outcomes from employers and employees, which may contribute to the underreporting.

On October 27, 2021, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register. With this publication, OSHA initiated the rulemaking process to consider a heat-specific workplace standard. A standard specific to heat-related injury and illness prevention would more clearly set forth employer obligations and the measures necessary to more effectively protect employees from hazardous heat. The ultimate goal is to prevent or reduce the number of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities caused by exposure to hazardous heat.

OSHA received 965 unique comments from stakeholders addressing various questions asked in the ANPRM. Using these comments, academic literature, best practices from state heat-specific standards and other input from experts, stakeholders and the public, OSHA has developed potential options for various elements of a heat-specific standard.

Through the SBREFA process, OSHA will present to SERs the potential options the agency has identified for various elements of a heat-specific standard to prevent or reduce heat injury and illness in outdoor and indoor work settings. OSHA will seek input from SERs on how these measures might affect the operations of their workplace.

Topics to be considered by the SBAR Panel will include potential options for:

  • A programmatic approach to heat injury and illness prevention.
  • The scope of a potential standard.
  • Heat hazard identification and assessment.
  • Heat hazard prevention and control measures.
  • Medical treatment and heat-related emergency response procedures.
  • Worker training.
  • Recordkeeping.

Who Qualifies as a “Small Entity”?

The definition of a “small entity” varies widely across the broad range of industry sectors potentially covered by the standard. The size standards vary by industry sector but are usually based on either number of employees or revenue (expressed in millions of dollars). A size standard is the largest size that an entity can be and still qualify as a small business for Federal Government programs. Generally, size standards are the average annual receipts or the average employment of a firm.

OSHA has particular interest in the participation of small entities in the industries listed above. However, OSHA welcomes SERs from any industry that might be affected by the proposed standard, including those within the sectors below in this article. Please see the SBA Table of Size Standards for the exact definition of a small entity for your industry sector or contact OSHA or SBA Advocacy for assistance.

Public entities must be in OSHA state plan states and serve populations of fewer than 50,000 to participate. Private entities must meet the SBA definition of a small entity.

Additionally, OSHA considers all non-profit entities to be small entities regardless of number of employees or revenue, and welcomes participation from entities that operate in a non-profit status, regardless of size.

Please contact OSHA or the Office of Advocacy if you are interested in participating. Entities that would like to participate in the SBAR Panel as SERs should contact Bruce Lundegren from the Office of Advocacy at the Small Business Administration, Bruce.Lundegren@sba.gov, (202) 205-6144 or OSHA at OSHAEvents_DSG@dol.gov.

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