Having a Say on OSHA’s Heat-Illness Standard

Safety and science are words we use on repeat at our company. Making sure our team is well taken care of and goes home safely to their families every day is extremely important to us. And as a south-central Texas business owner, I can say the summer heat this year was intense in our territory, as it seemed to be in many parts of the nation.

OSHA has had a strong focus on preventing heat-related illnesses and fatalities in the workplace, particularly in industries where workers are exposed to high temperatures. Over the past few years, they have issued guidelines that we have successfully followed with no heat-related injuries or issues.

Our company offers unlimited hydration options, from water, ice, 5-gallon Igloo jugs, personal 40-ounce water bottles, electrolyte options, breaks as needed, heat-related tailgate trainings, buddy systems and emergency-response awareness. We are thankful that, following this approach, we’ve never had an issue.

OSHA is now taking the next steps to formalize these guidelines by proposing and developing plans to regulate workplace exposure to hazardous heat. The standard could cover outdoor and indoor work in any or all general industry, construction, maritime and agriculture sectors where OSHA has jurisdiction.

I recently had the honor of participating in the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process regarding OSHA’s proposed Heat-Illness/Injury Standard. This process typically begins when a federal agency such as OSHA proposes a rule that could impact small businesses. This initial step of the rule-making process allows small-business representatives the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion that provides OSHA with insight on how the proposed rule will impact small businesses. This helps ensure that the regulations are tailored to their needs and concerns.

The panel consisted of members from OSHA, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and the selected Small Entity Representatives .

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in this panel representing our industry and to provide candid feedback from a small-business perspective. Everyone was thoughtful and engaged, actively listened and encouraged discussions that allowed us to have very authentic conversations.

We have a 60-day window to comment during this phase of a multi-step process. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, or would like to provide any feedback on this topic, please reach out to TCIA or to me directly. We are here to represent our industry, and we take pride in doing so.

Amy Burkett is co-owner, along with her husband, Tyler Burkett, CTSP, of Burkett Arbor Care LLC, an accredited, nine-year TCIA member company based in Boerne, Texas. She also is a member of the TCIA Board of Directors.

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