The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the release of a proposed heat hazard standard. Markedly, the standard is an example of the Biden Administration’s commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice. Explicitly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to protect workers from dangerous ambient heat exposure amid rising temperatures. Earlier in October, OSHA submitted a vaccine emergency temporary standard to the White House for approval. As of the date of this blog post’s publication, that emergency standard has not moved forward.

Background on the Heat Hazard Standard

Overall, heat illness is preventable and commonly under-reported. For instance, thousands of workers each year experience negative effects from workplace heat exposure. Meanwhile, 43 workers died from heat illness in 2019, and at least 2,410 others suffered severe injuries and illnesses. Heat is also the leading cause of death among all weather-related workplace hazards. Due to this fact, OSHA has wanted to create a standard regulating worker exposure to indoor and outdoor heat hazards.

Overview of the Heat Hazard Standard Process

On October 27th, 2021, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. In short, the Notice explicitly provides an overview of workplace heat stress and how to prevent it. Also, the Notice seeks information on issues that OSHA can consider while developing the final standard. For instance, OSHA still needs to determine the overall scope of the standard and the necessary and appropriate controls.

Accordingly, OSHA provided information on how interested parties can submit comments on the pending heat hazard standard. Explicitly, individuals can submit comments and attachments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2021-0009, electronically at At this point, individuals must submit any comments on or before December 27th, 2021.

OSHA’s Current Response to Heat-Related Illnesses

Meanwhile, as a result of the rising numbers of workplace heat illnesses, OSHA is doing the following:

Accordingly, the enforcement initiative protects workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths while working in hazardous hot environments. To that end, the newly established initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities. For example, prioritization occurs on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The initiative applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime where potential heat-related hazards exist. Certainly, OSHA encourages employers to implement intervention methods on heat priority days proactively, including:

  • regularly taking breaks for water, rest, and shade;
  • training workers on identifying common symptoms;
  • what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring; and
  • taking periodic measurements to determine workers’ heat exposure.