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OSHA Addresses Workplace Heat Issues

OSHA takes a significant step toward setting a federal heat standard to protect workers in both indoors and outdoors settings.

Photo by Christopher Burns / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Heat is the leading cause of death among all hazardous weather conditions in the United States. Excessive heat in the workplace can cause a number of adverse health effects, including heat stroke and even death, if not treated properly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 479 workers in the U.S. died from exposure to environmental heat from 2011-2022, an average of 40 fatalities per year in that time period. Additionally, there were 33,890 estimated work-related heat injuries and illnesses that resulted in days away from work from 2011-2020, an average of 3,389 per year in that time period. However, these statistics for occupational heat-related illnesses, injuries, and fatalities are likely vast underestimates.

Workers in outdoor and indoor work settings without adequate climate controls are at risk of hazardous heat exposure. Certain heat-generating processes, machinery, and equipment (e.g., hot tar ovens, furnaces, etc.) can also cause hazardous heat when cooling measures are not in place. Some groups may be more likely to experience adverse health effects from heat, such as pregnant workers, while others are disproportionately exposed to hazardous levels of heat, such as workers of color in essential jobs who are more often employed in work settings with high risk of hazardous heat exposure.

Current Status

OSHA is issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. This is a significant step toward a federal heat standard to protect workers. The proposed standard would apply to all employers conducting outdoor and indoor work in all general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture sectors where OSHA has jurisdiction. The standard would require employers to create a plan to evaluate and control heat hazards in their workplace. It would clarify employer obligations and the steps necessary to effectively protect employees from hazardous heat. The ultimate goal is to prevent and reduce the number of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities caused by exposure to hazardous heat.

OSHA encourages the public to participate by submitting comments when the proposed standard is officially published in the Federal Register. Your input will help us develop a final rule that adequately protects workers, is feasible for employers, and is based on the best available evidence.

For more information on how to provide comments at this stage of the process, visit