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Can Your Team Stand the Heat? The Federal and Oregon OSHA Heat Rule

By Alden Strealy, MS, CIH, SCP, AGC Director of Safety Services

crane with orange skyIn 2023, a 26-year-old temporary worker died after working outside on his first day with a contract labor firm. The heat index was estimated at 97. The man was sitting atop of a trailer in a field began experiencing symptoms consistent with heat-related illness and complaining of not feeling well. Shortly after, he collapsed and was sent to the hospital. He passed four days later. Federal OSHA cited the employer for not fulfilling its duty to protect employees from heat exposure. OSHA said things might have been different if “its workers were given time to acclimate to working in brutally high temperatures with required rest breaks.”

On July 2, 2024 Federal OSHA released their proposed new rule to protect employees from heat illness. The language is very similar to Oregon OSHA’s current rule issued on May 9, 2022, with triggers at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at 90 deg F. It also would require employers to implement a heat injury and illness prevention plan, require certain rest/break schedules, and provide a buddy-system, acclimatization plan, and annual training.

Federal OSHA has allowed 120 days for comments. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with them, but more importantly, take care of your team in the heat. These rules can be difficult for construction activities due to the ever-changing nature of the work, location, and employees. And, a nation-wide rule could provide some consistency, but also hinder some areas of the country from adapting to their specific conditions. The heat in Houston is different than the heat in Oregon.

Click here to review the proposed new rule.

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