Are new OSHA heat standards on the horizon?

November 19, 2022 -  By
Landscaper shading eyes during hot day (Photo: JulieanneBirch/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

(Photo: JulieanneBirch/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Sam Steel, Ed.D., safety adviser for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), says new, stricter heat standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are on the horizon.

“OSHA has looked at our numbers, and they know (our industry) has had fatalities and deaths among workers impacted by heat-related illness, and part of that new standard will be aimed directly at us,” he says.

Steel says OSHA may take a page out of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) book because OSHA currently has no standards related explicitly to heat safety.

Cal/OSHA has a specific section dedicated to heat illness applying to outdoor places of employment and refers specifically to landscaping as one of five industries subject to all provisions of the standard.

Among the provisions in the standard is a requirement that employees must have access to shade and water when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees F. It also states that an employer should have high-heat procedures for when the temperature exceeds 95 degrees F.

According to Cal/OSHA, high-heat procedures should include communication so employees can contact a supervisor and designating one or more employees as authorized to call for emergency services.

OSHA is in the beginning stages of putting together the standard, according to Steel, meaning implementation could still be more than nine months away.

Still, Steel says companies should consider creating their own written heat illness policies — if they don’t have them already — to prepare for the future.

Steel says written policies should cover access to cool drinking water and shade during high heat days. The policy should also address the number of rest periods designated for days when the temperature will be over a certain threshold.

Contractors should also implement an acclimatization policy, according to Steel, ensuring new employees are not put out on the hottest days before their bodies have become accustomed to the high heat.

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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