OSHA is planning on doubling its heat-related inspections during a three-year program that went into effect this past April. Pursuant to new guidance issued under its “National Emphasis Program,” OSHA seeks to ensure that employers are adequately protecting their employees from heat related illnesses. Of course, construction sites (in addition to other outdoor jobs) are going to be the primary driver of the program and increased citations, and are specifically targeted in the program for random inspections during high-heat days. Therefore, it is important for contractors to be aware of the key points of the program and what they can do to avoid citations.
Program’s key initiatives include both random inspections and targeted inspections.
The program applies when employees are required to be outdoors for more than 15 minutes in any 1-hour period and outdoor temperatures exceed 80? and humidity exceeding 40%. Though this is a national program, it is easy to see why Florida will be a key focus for the program as these conditions exist for the majority of the year.
As part of the process, OSHA will conduct random assessments of outdoor workspaces, such as construction sites, when the national weather service issues a heat warning or heat advisory. A heat advisory, the lesser of the two, is issued when the “heat index value” is expected to reach 105? to 109? during the next 12 to 24 hours. The heat index value combines both temperature and humidity. As an example, the heat index value would be 105 when the temperature is 86? and humidity is 90%, or if the temperature is 90? and the humidity is 70%. During a heat advisory, OSHA inspectors can and will randomly inspect jobsites to determine if the employer is providing adequate protection to its employees from the heat.
OSHA will also conduct targeted inspections of an employer’s jobsite if a hazardous heat condition is recorded in an employer’s OSHA 300 log or 301 incident report, if an employee anonymously reports a heat-related issue to an OSHA compliance officer, or if they receive a referral from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division.
What can contractor’s do to prevent a citation?
OSHA will be looking for two things during their inspection. First, does the employer include a policy on heat in their safety manual. Second, has the employer adequately protected the workers on a construction site. Both the employer’s written policy as well as field-implementation of that policy should include:
- A method of monitoring temperature and related worker exertion on the jobsite. As with everything, OSHA will look to see if the employer is documenting high-hazard days and notifying their employees of the danger;
- Providing employees with ready access to cool drinking water;
- Providing required/scheduled breaks to employees for hydration and rest;
- Providing employees with access to a shaded area;
- Providing new employees (or returning ones) additional time to get acclimated to high-heat conditions;
- Implementing a “buddy” system on high-heat days;
- To the extent possible, providing for controls such as earlier start times and job rotation to limit heat exposure to employees; and
- Providing training on heat illness signs, how to report signs and symptoms, first aid, how to contact emergency personnel, prevention, and the importance of hydration.
We recommend that contractors be proactive to prevent an OSHA citation, which not only come with fines but also generally result in higher insurance premiums and consideration during evaluation of bids. Therefore, we advise our clients to create and implement a safety manual incorporating the above requirements. Should you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.
Bruce E. Loren and Kyle W. Ohlenschlaeger of the Loren & Kean Law Firm are based in Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Lauderdale. Loren & Kean Law is a boutique law firm concentrating in construction law, employment law, and complex commercial litigation. Mr. Loren and Mr. Ohlenschlaeger have achieved the title of “Board Certified in Construction Law” by the Florida Bar, exemplifying the Bar’s recognition of this expertise. The firm’s construction clients include owners/developers, general contractors, specialty contractors in every trade, suppliers and professional architects and engineers. Mr. Loren and Mr. Ohlenschlaeger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or 561-615-5701.