The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that between 2015 and 2019, environmental heat resulted in an average of 35 worker fatalities per year nationwide and 2,700 cases with days away from work. However, the actual number of heat-related fatalities may be higher due to underreporting and improper diagnosis. The cause of death is often listed as a heart attack when the actual cause or aggravating cause may have been exposure to heat. Heat-related illnesses range from heat rashes to heat cramps (prickly heat), heat exhaustion, heat syncope (fainting), and heat stroke, which is potentially deadly.
In response to this situation and the rising incidence of temperature extremes due to global warming, OSHA issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards in April 2022 to prioritize the prevention of heat-related illness. MIOSHA has adopted the NEP as a state emphasis program and will be conducting inspections under this SEP. During the inspections, the safety officer will be determining if there was significant, uncontrolled exposure to the heat or the presence of heat-related illness among workers.
MIOSHA has no specific standard for prevention of heat-related illnesses. In such cases when there is no OSHA regulation for a recognized serious hazard, the general duty clause of the MIOSHA Act can be cited. The general duty clause can be used to cite heat hazards in circumstances where heat-related illness or death has occurred or is likely to occur due to deficiencies in an employer’s heat illness prevention program, environmental conditions, and the type of work performed. General duty clause citations are always of a “serious” classification and carry maximum fines.
In addition, in construction, citations can be issued for lack of potable water under CS Part 1, General Rules; not recording or reporting cases of heat-related illness under ADM Part 11, Recording and Reporting of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses; and lack of personal protective equipment under CS Part 6, Personal Protective Equipment. A citation for CSHD Part 1, General Rules, Rule 114(2)(c) can be issued if the employer’s Accident Prevention Program (APP) does not identify the steps the employer will take to protect the employees from heat stress.
For access to an example of a Heat Illness Prevention Plan click here.
If you have any questions, please contact Greg Brooks, Director of Safety & Compliance, at email@example.com, or call 517-507-2531.