US Department of Labor invites small business owners, local governments to share input on potential heat standard to protect indoor, outdoor workers
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor urges small business owners and representatives from local government entities to join the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies for a series of upcoming discussions on the potential impacts of a workplace heat standard on small businesses.
With the U.S. commonly experiencing rising temperatures, hazards associated with exposure to high temperatures in the workplace are also increasing. While largely preventable and often underreported, workplace heat illness sickens thousands of people and, in some cases, is fatal for others.
Currently, OSHA is developing a potential standard for workplaces — in which the agency has jurisdiction — to prevent heat illness and injury in outdoor and indoor environments in general industry and in the construction, maritime and agriculture industries. As part of its process, OSHA is holding Small Business Advocacy Review Panel meetings in summer 2023 to gather views on the potential effects of a heat standard on small businesses.
The panel will be comprised of representatives from OSHA, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
While the panel welcomes representatives from any industry, the group is interested particularly in collecting input from industries the agency expects would be most affected by a heat standard. These industries include agriculture, construction, landscaping, manufacturing, oil and gas, warehousing, waste management, utilities, and food service, specifically in restaurant kitchens.
The meetings will be held in teleconferences where small businesses can share concerns and discuss current practices for protecting their employees from heat-related illnesses and injuries. The panel is also seeking input on how new heat regulations might impact their workplace operations or local business communities. The discussions will be open to the public.
In October 2021, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register. Its publication initiated the rulemaking for OSHA to consider a heat-specific workplace standard. OSHA has also taken several actions apart from the rulemaking to protect workers from the dangers of excess heat in the workplace. These include the following:
- Development of an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards.
- Launch of a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections.
- Creation of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health’s Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to better understand challenges, and identify and share best practices to protect workers.
- Launch of a Heat Illness Prevention campaign to educate employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat.