Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards

Part 1

OSHA has established policies and procedures for implementing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to protect employees from heat-related hazards and resulting injuries and illnesses in outdoor and indoor workplaces.  This NEP expands on the agency’s ongoing heat-related illness prevention initiative and campaign by setting forth a targeted enforcement component and reiterating its compliance assistance and outreach efforts. 

This approach is intended to encourage early interventions by employers to prevent illnesses and deaths among workers during high heat conditions, such as working outdoors in a local area experiencing a heat wave, as announced by the National Weather Service.  Early interventions include, but are not limited to, implementing water, rest, shade, training, and acclimatization procedures for new or returning employees. 

Employer’s On-Site Consultation Programs are encouraged to develop their own strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries resulting from body heat generated by physical work that is performed in conditions of high ambient and/or radiant heat, especially when combined with humidity and inadequate cooling.

The National Weather Service (NWS) uses a heat index to classify environmental heat into four categories:

Caution (80°F – 90°F HI)

Extreme Caution (91°F – 103°F HI)

Danger (103°F – 124°F HI)

Extreme Danger (126°F or higher HI)  

When the heat index is 80°F or higher, serious occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries become more frequent, especially in workplaces where unacclimatized workers are performing strenuous work (e.g., intense arm and back/lifting work, carrying, shoveling, manual sawing, pushing and pulling heavy loads, and walking at a fast pace), without easy access to cool water, or cool/shaded areas, when working in direct sunlight or areas where other radiant heat sources are present. 

Heat-related illnesses and injuries can happen at almost any ambient temperature, especially in cases where workers perform moderate or higher physical activity, or wear heavy or bulky clothing or equipment, including personal protective equipment.  Heat related illnesses and injuries also generally occur when body heat generated by physical work is performed in conditions of high ambient heat, especially when combined with humidity and inadequate cooling. 

As mentioned above, combinations of heat and humidity are used to determine the commonly used “feels like” temperature (i.e., heat index, or HI).  The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App is a resource for finding the forecasted and current heat index.  The App indicates the hazard levels using the heat index as: Caution less than 80°F HI, Warning 80°F to 94°F HI, and Danger at 95°F HI or higher.

Targeted Audiences for Outreach

• Local employers in high-hazard industries. 

See also targeted industries in Appendix A.

• Unions, worker centers, COSH groups (Councils for Occupational Safety and Health), and other organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved worker populations.

• Local companies and employer associations (e.g., trade associations, contractor groups, farm bureaus, local chambers of commerce) in industries such as, but not limited those in Appendix A.

• Insurance companies.

• Local professional associations (e.g., local safety councils, local agriculture extensions).

• Temporary employment agencies providing employees to targeted employers.

• Local newspapers, TV stations, and trade magazines (these can help inform the public and hard-to-reach employers).

• Local government (e.g., health departments, departments of correction, emergency services, construction permitting agencies, and departments of transportation).

• Local suppliers of materials or services, equipment transportation companies, such as landscapers, and delivery services.

Spencer-SHE has been providing Safety, Health, and Environmental Compliance Guidance since 1980.  We can provide on-site consulting and written program creation to prevent workplace citations.

Contact us here to help you to develop and maintain a safe and healthy workforce.