Contractors in South Florida have to deal with year-round heat and the consequences it brings to outdoor construction workers. Most err on the side of caution and implement protocols to keep their employees hydrated and free of heat-related complications.
But if some civic groups get their way, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may implement heat protection standards for workers. Spearheaded by Public Citizen, a nonprofit, there are over 130 additional organizations that signed petitions to establish these standards.
The groups want the following requirements:
- Access to shade
- Heat exposure monitoring
- Personal protective equipment provided, e.g., cooling vests
- Mandatory heat breaks of 15-45 minutes at specific temperature thresholds
- Worker training that's led by instructors
- Medical monitoring for workers exposed to specific high temperatures
- Records of all workers who died or were injured from the heat
- Heat acclimatization plans
- Written heat alert programs
- Access to water and electrolytes
- Signs warning about heat stress dangers
- Whistleblower protections for workers who report companies violating the heat standard
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 24 years between 1992 and 2016, there were 783 on-the-job, heat-related deaths of workers. An additional 69,000 suffered heat-related injuries.
It's not known whether this push for a heat standard will be put in place or not. It's the agency's policy to allow individuals and organizations to petition for changes to the rules. Petitions are then reviewed and evaluated by OSHA, often with input from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) advisory panels and/or the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Since the implementation of these measures would potentially have major financial and legal implications for South Florida contractors, it's prudent to stay abreast of the status of the petition.