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New OSHA Heat Standard

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

From military branches to various states, many different heat prevention guidelines have been promulgated; however, there is still no federal standard for heat prevention. For this reason, a new construction bill is in the works. Introduced on July 10, 2019 and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, the bill, H.R. 3668, would require OSHA to have a federal standard for prevention of occupational excessive heat exposure. Further, it would require the federal standard to “provide no less protection than the most protective heat prevention standard adopted by a State plan.”

The bill gives both physical and fiscal reasoning behind the need for a federal standard. People who work in excessive heat suffer from slowed-thought processes, physical duress, and—potentially—death. Additionally, the “costs of lower labor productivity under rising temperatures is estimated to reach up to $160,000,000,000 in lost wages per year in the United States by 2090.”

H.R. 3668 specifically provides for contractors and subcontractors to “develop, implement, and maintaina written heat illness prevention plan. Though the legislative pass-rate of this bill is low, the lack of a heat prevention plan will impact the construction industry in terms of lost wages. The bill notes that, “[g]lobal gross domestic product losses from heat are projected to be greater than 20 percent by the end of this century.”

OSHA currently gives guidance to employers about how to keep employees safe in hot environments, but there is currently no national standard in place. If passed, the bill would require employers to create and maintain heat prevention plans.

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