The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH, ‘the committee’) has unanimously approved the advancement of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) proposed heat safety rulemaking. However, OSHA has not yet published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

OSHA in 2022 announced a National Emphasis Program “to protect employees from heat-related hazards and resulting injuries and illnesses in outdoor and indoor workplaces.” After two years, OSHA in late April 2024 then presented a draft of its heat safety framework to the committee, which advises the Agency on safety and health standards. After a review period, the committee in May 2024 recommended that OSHA “move forward expeditiously” toward proposed rulemaking. Stakeholders will soon have the opportunity to comment on the proposal before it is finalized.

The NEP included agriculture, specifically vegetable, melon, fruit, and tree nut farming, but not livestock or poultry production or processing. However, it is unclear whether OSHA plans to expand this eligibility criteria to include poultry processing or related occupations in its NPRM.

The Agency noted that they would be prioritizing “programmed inspection in the agricultural industries that employ temporary, nonimmigrant H-2A workers for seasonal labor.  They argue that these workers face many barriers, including language and certain working conditions, that put them at a higher risk of hazardous heat exposure than other groups of workers.

OSHA is looking to require an “Initial Heat Trigger” at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a “High Heat Trigger” at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At the initial trigger, the agency may require water breaks and areas to take them at such temperatures and, at a high trigger, 15-minute breaks every two hours, along with a hazard alert. OSHA is also looking to possibly require training and recordkeeping for policies and monitoring.

Employers are required by law to protect employees from dangerous heat exposure by supplying water, breaks, and places to cool down. The Agency notes that employees new to high-heat workplaces need to be gradually introduced into the work environment and given the proper training to prevent serious illness and potential death.

The full DOL press release can be found here. The slides from the committee meeting in April can be found here.