Small Businesses Weigh In on Potential OSHA Heat Stress Standard

Contact: Brad Mannion
(202) 266-8265

A panel of small business owners from varied industries, including construction, recently discussed the contours of a potential heat illness and injury standard from OSHA. The final report on the panels had specific recommendations for OSHA to consider when writing a proposed rule.

OSHA convened Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panels to get feedback from small businesses on the impact a heat safety standard might have on their operations. Over two weeks in September, 82 small businesses participated in video conference calls; 21 were in construction, nine were landscapers, and six do utilities work. At least one NAHB member participated in the panels.

In 2021, OSHA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a standard defining employer obligations to reduce the number of heat-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities at indoor and outdoor workplaces.

OSHA gave the September panelists topics to discuss related to the potential rulemaking, including:

  • The scope of a potential standard
  • Heat hazard identification, assessment, prevention and control measures
  • Medical treatment and heat-related emergency response procedures
  • Worker training
  • Recordkeeping

The final report includes the panelists’ areas of concern and recommendations for how OSHA should move forward with the rulemaking:

Flexibility and Scalability. The panel recommends that an OSHA standard should be flexible, with a programmatic approach that allows employers to tailor their program to their particular workplace and climate.

Heat Triggers. Panelists felt that the heat triggers that OSHA suggested were too low and were confusing. The panel recommends that OSHA reconsider and simplify the presentation of the heat triggers and provide additional data supporting the levels selected.

Recordkeeping. Panelists felt that some recordkeeping requirements that OSHA had suggested were unnecessary, burdensome or infeasible, and recommends that OSHA reconsider or simplify recordkeeping of temperature monitoring and not require documentation of rest breaks.

Rest Breaks. The majority of the panelists said that they allow their employees to take rest breaks when they need to, but many objected to OSHA specifying the frequency of rest breaks.

Solo and Mobile Workers. Panelists with employees who work alone or travel between jobsites during a shift were concerned about implementing some provisions such as supervision, temperature monitoring and rest breaks.

Other areas of concern for the small business leaders included requirements around drinking water, acclimatization, engineering and administrative controls (like AC and fans), and temperature measurement.

OSHA is accepting public comments on the information currently in the rulemaking docket, including the panel final report, until Dec. 23. NAHB is very engaged in this process and will submit comments at every stage of the rulemaking.

For tips and best practices to keep workers safe in the heat, check out NAHB’s video toolbox talk on heat stress.

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