OSHA’s new heat rule could apply to furniture manufacturers

WASHINGTON – A newly proposed government heat safety rule would mark the first federal standard requiring employers to create a plan to evaluate and control heat hazards for their employees.

The proposal, from the U.S. Dept. of Labor and OSHA, would apply to both indoor and outdoor workers in the construction, maritime and agriculture sectors, as well as for all “general industries” – which includes manufacturing, retail and warehousing.

If finalized, OSHA says the rule would help protect some 36 million workers in indoor and outdoor work settings and substantially reduce heat injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace.

The proposed rule would require employers to develop an injury and illness prevention plan to control heat hazards in workplaces affected by excessive heat. The threshold for excessive heat is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, per the rule.

If a workplace reaches that temperature, employers will be required to provide employees with cool drinking water, break areas with cooling measures, indoor work area controls, acclimatization protocols for new and returning unacclimated employees, paid rest breaks if needed to prevent overheating and effective two-way communication.

At 90 degrees – another threshold – employers will be required to provide mandatory rest breaks of 15 minutes at least every two hours, observation for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, a hazard alert to remind employees of key parts of the protocol.

Employers would also be required to provide training, have procedures to respond if a worker is experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness, and take immediate action to help a worker experiencing signs and symptoms of a heat emergency.

Exempt from the standard are remote workers, emergency response workers, and workplaces where air conditioning consistently keeps the ambient temperature below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

OSHA is allowing comments from the public for 120 days following the rules’ official publication.

A full fact sheet with more information about the proposed regulations is available online.

See also:

  • OSHA updates requirements for chemical labels, safety sheets
  • OSHA increases all fines, ramps up citations for serious violations

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