The new OSHA Heat Stress NEP creates, for the first time, a nationwide enforcement mechanism for OSHA to proactively inspect workplaces for heat-related hazards in general industry, maritime, construction, or agriculture operations alleging hazardous exposures to heat, both indoors and outdoors.
This means that OSHA can now conduct heat-related inspections on high-risk workplaces before workers are injured, suffer illnesses, or die.
What is the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat?
The National Emphasis Program for Heat Illness is an initiative launched by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States to address the risks associated with heat stress and illness prevention with heat disorders and hot work environments.
This NEP aims to help employers and workers prevent heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps, which can be serious and even fatal. The program provides guidance and resources to help employers identify and control heat-related hazards for outdoor workers, develop and implement effective heat illness prevention programs, and train workers on how to prevent heat stress and recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress disorders.
What is heat stress?
Heat stress occurs when a person’s body fails to maintain its internal temperature. Heat strokes and other heat-related issues mostly occur during the hotter months, or when a heat wave strikes. That said, heat stress is not limited to the summer months.
Extremely challenging working conditions and workplaces without proper ventilation can also cause heat stress during the winter months when the temperature is not very high.
Why is it important to prevent heat stress and heat related illness?
Heat illness can be a matter of life and death. Workers die from heat stroke every summer and every death is preventable.
When heat stroke doesn’t kill immediately, it can shut down major body organs causing acute heart, liver, kidney and muscle damage, nervous system problems, and blood disorders.
Having a serious injury or death occur at work affects everyone at a worksite.
Workers suffering from heat exhaustion are at greater risk for accidents, since they are less alert and can be confused.
How to help prevent heat related illnesses?
Heat illnesses can be life-threatening and can affect anyone, especially during the hot summer months. Heat illnesses are caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity, which can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and the risk of heat-stroke.
It is essential to take the necessary precautions to avoid heat illnesses and ensure the safety of yourself and those around you!
Drink plenty of fluids every 15 minutes, especially water, to replace fluids lost through sweating, even if you do not feel thirsty, when you are working in a hot environment. Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they can lead to dehydration.
Eat water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to help maintain hydration levels.
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing, which allows for air circulation and air movement and helps to reflect sunlight, and take a frequent break from shaded areas or air-conditioned spaces to cool down.
Workers should be gradually exposed to the heat, allowing them to build up their tolerance over time. These can be done by starting with shorter shifts in the heat and gradually increasing the duration over time.
Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day and schedule your outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
Use sunscreen with a high SPF and wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the sun's harmful rays. Using temperature and humidity monitoring equipment to keep track of environmental conditions, and adjust work practices as necessary.
Heat stroke is a severe heat illness that can be life-threatening. Symptoms of a heat illness, include a high body temperature (above 103°F), confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
If you suspect someone is experiencing heatstroke, call 911 immediately, move them to a cool, shaded area, and apply cool, wet clothes to their skin. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the summer months while staying safe and healthy.
OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App
The Heat Safety Tool is a smartphone application developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that helps heat and protect workers and supervisors so they can stay safe while working in hot weather conditions in hot environments.
This app calculates the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels to the human or body temperature, and uses the device's location to provide current temperature and humidity readings. These apps include a feature for creating and scheduling reminders for drinking fluids, taking breaks, and monitoring symptoms of how to avoid heat-related illness, such as drinking enough water, taking frequent breaks, and dressing appropriately.
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool features:
A visual indicator of the current heat index and associated risk levels specific to your current geographical location
Precautionary recommendations specific to heat index-associated risk levels
An interactive, hourly forecast of heat index values, risk levels, and recommendations for planning outdoor work activities
Location, temperature, and humidity controls, which you can edit to calculate for different conditions
Signs and symptoms and first aid for heat-related illnesses
Employer Responsibilities (OSHA Standard: General Duty Clause)
Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that "is free from recognized hazards medical conditions that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees."
The courts have interpreted OSHA's general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.
Frequently Asked Question about the OSHA Heat Stress NEP
What does the NEP involve?
The NEP involves OSHA conducting targeted inspections of employers in high-risk industries to ensure compliance with OSHA's heat safety standards. Inspectors will evaluate employers' heat physical labor-related safety programs, assess the environmental conditions, and interview employees to determine their level of understanding of heat-related hazards and their employer's safety measures.
Who is affected by the NEP?
The NEP is targeted to employers in high-risk industries, including agriculture, construction, and transportation, where workers are more likely to be exposed to heat stress. However, all employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their workers and complying with OSHA's heat safety standards.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Employers who are found to be non-compliant with OSHA's heat safety standards may face penalties and fines. Non-compliant employers may also be required to correct hazards and implement safety measures to protect their employees from the risk of heat-related illnesses and fatalities.
How do I use OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app?
This app provides recommendations to prevent heat-related illnesses and reduce heat stress in outdoor workers based on the local weather conditions used to calculate the heat index.
Heat Index: When you enable location services, temperature and humidity data are automatically downloaded, and the current heat index is displayed. Under the calculated heat index is the associated "Precautions" button for the risk level. Selecting "Precautions" will take you to a screen with risk level-specific recommendations.
Hourly Heat Index Forecast: If you are interested in planning your work activities for the entire shift around the heat index, there is an hourly feature that will allow you to scroll through and determine the hottest hours of the day along with the corresponding risk level and precautions.
Symptoms and First Aid: At the bottom of your app screen, you will always have easy access to heat-related illness symptoms and first aid.
More: The “More Tips section provides information about being prepared for emergencies, training, acclimatization, hydration, monitoring workers for heat-related illness, and taking breaks. There is also a list of risk factors associated with heat-related illnesses.