OSHA Turns Up the Heat on Enforcement With New Heat Hazard Emphasis Program

On April 8, 2022, OSHA launched its National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect workers from heat related hazards in indoor and outdoor workplaces. Through the program, OSHA will conduct workplace inspections aimed at identifying heat related hazards before workers suffer preventable injuries, illnesses or fatalities.

This NEP applies to all industries. The NEP became effective on April 8, 2022, and will remain in effect for three years, unless canceled or extended by a superseding directive.

The NEP establishes heat priority days, when the heat index is expected to be 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. On those priority days, OSHA will:

  • Initiate compliance assistance in the targeted high risk industries; and 
  • Continue to investigate any alleged heat related fatality, catastrophe, complaint or referral, regardless of whether the worksite falls within a targeted high risk industry.

The NEP encourages employers to protect their workers from heat related hazards during heat priority days by providing them with access to water, rest, shade and adequate training, as well as implementing acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees.

The goal of this OSHA NEP is to reduce or eliminate workers’ exposure to heat related hazards that may result in illnesses, injuries or deaths by targeting industries and worksites (including those with radiant heat sources) where employees are exposed to such hazards and have not been provided adequate protection. The primary mitigation strategies for controlling heat related hazards include providing cool water and rest areas, conducting necessary training, and implementing acclimatization procedures for applicable employees.

In addition, this NEP will:

  • Incorporate and expand on the Sept. 1, 2021, heat initiative memorandum to further focus on heat related hazards in both the outdoor and indoor work environments; and
  • Provide procedures for planned, programmed and follow up inspections in targeted workplaces.

This NEP prioritizes on site (in person) responses for complaints and employer reported hospitalizations (i.e., severe injury reports) stemming from heat related hazards.

High risk Industries
The NEP targets over 70 industries that present a high risk for heat related hazards. OSHA identified these industries based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data and its own reports, which found that high risk industries have exhibited:

  • High numbers or incidence rates of heat related illnesses; 
  • An elevated number of days away from work or high numbers of severe cases of heat related illnesses;
  • The highest number of heat related general duty clause violations and hazard alert letters over a five year period; or
  • The highest number of heat related OSHA inspections since 2017

Programmed inspections under this NEP will occur on any day that the National Weather Service (NWS) has announced a heat warning or advisory for the local area. A list of high risk industries can be found in the NEP under Appendix A.

How Inspections Are Determined
To prevent heat related illnesses and deaths, compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) conducting on site investigations for other purposes must open or refer inspections for any heat related hazards physically observed, recorded in OSHA Form 300, logged in 301 Incident Reports, or reported by workers (e.g., employees or temporary workers being exposed to high temperature conditions without adequate training, acclimatization measures or access to water, rest or shade). The expansion of inspections must be conducted in accordance with the Field Operations Manual (FOM).

Additionally, CSHOs will inquire during inspections about the existence of any heat related hazard prevention programs in place for heat priority days. A heat priority day occurs when the heat index for the day is expected to be 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The OSHA Area Office (AO) will assess the potential for serious heat related illnesses and injuries where such hazards may exist in indoor or outdoor work areas on heat priority days, providing compliance assistance where needed.