What is OSHA’s top post-COVID enforcement priority?  According to Assistant Secretary of Labor and the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), Doug Parker, it’s heat-related illnesses.  On April 8, 2022, OSHA released its National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) for heat related issues in the workplace.

Before becoming head of federal OSHA enforcement, Mr. Parker was head of Cal/OSHA, one of the few states in the country to have a state plan, including its own dedicated heat illness prevention standard.  The NEP bring this issue to the forefront of federal OSHA’s inspection and enforcement priorities, as the agency works in the meantime to create a proposed rule (i.e. a dedicated, permanent standard).  For now, OSHA will use the NEP and its General Duty clause to target and begin conducting heat-related workplace inspections at “High-Hazard” heat illness employers in the near future.

How should employers prepare? First, understand the work-related hazard OSHA is trying to prevent and mitigate: heat-related illnesses and stress that result when the human body can no longer regulate its internal temperature.  Such illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and other illnesses – many of which may result in death—with symptoms that include high body temperature, confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Second, employers should determine if they are covered by the NEP, which targets “High-Hazard” industries with both indoor and outdoor operations based on NAICS codes and includes industries from manufacturing, construction and transportation to restaurants, skilled nursing facilities and employment services industries.  See NEP, Appendix A.

Third, employers should evaluate the potential for outdoor and indoor heat illness hazards and either develop a program to address those heat hazards or review existing policies and training programs that address heat exposure.  At a minimum, employers should start with and build off of the well-worn mantra: “Water. Rest. Shade.”

Although many employers with Southern locations deal with warmer temperatures year-round, summer is quickly approaching for the entire country and employers in “High-Hazard” industries should anticipate unannounced inspections from OSHA on “any day that the National Weather Service has announced a heat warning or advisory for the local area.”

If you have any questions about the NEP, developing and revising heat illness prevention programs, or how to prepare for an OSHA inspection, please contact Frantz Ward OSHA attorneys Christina Niro or Jon Scandling.

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Photo of Christina Niro Christina Niro

Christina advises and represents employers in a broad range of employment law matters, from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, to cases involving contract disputes, restrictive covenants, trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition. She has litigated and tried cases in state and federal courts and…

Christina advises and represents employers in a broad range of employment law matters, from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, to cases involving contract disputes, restrictive covenants, trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition. She has litigated and tried cases in state and federal courts and various administrative agencies. Christina also provides employers of all sizes with day-to-day preventive counseling on wage and hour issues, employee discipline, litigation prevention strategies, employee handbook and policy development, and adherence to federal and state family and medical leave laws. Christina also conducts EEO training to help employers understand, prevent and correct discrimination in the workplace.

Photo of Jonathan M. Scandling Jonathan M. Scandling

Jon focuses his practice on the representation of management in all aspects of labor and employment law. He provides counseling and training to clients for best practices on a wide range of human resource issues such as terminations, compliance with employment laws, workplace…

Jon focuses his practice on the representation of management in all aspects of labor and employment law. He provides counseling and training to clients for best practices on a wide range of human resource issues such as terminations, compliance with employment laws, workplace investigations, and the preparation of policies and employment agreements. Jon also assists with the implementation of arbitration agreements and policies for employers.

Jon has extensive experience in public sector labor & employment law, with much of his practice revolving around traditional labor matters. Prior to Frantz Ward, Jon worked for Cuyahoga County as an Assistant Law Director in the Labor & Employment Group. While at the County, Jon’s practice involved traditional labor matters where he represented management in a complex labor/management relationship comprised of over 37 separate bargaining units, employment litigation and general employment counseling. He appeared in both state and federal court, and represented management in State Employment Relations Board hearings, contract negotiations, grievance arbitration and various other forums. Jon also has extensive experience dealing directly with various public sector unions, ranging from deputy and correction officers to office workers and clerical employees. He also was a law clerk for the State Employment Relations Board in Columbus.