NAHB Urges Flexibility in Potential OSHA Heat Stress Rules

Safety
Published
Contact: Brad Mannion
bmannion@nahb.org
(202) 266-8265

NAHB recently submitted formal comments on a potential new workplace standard being considered by OSHA to protect workers from heat-related illness and injury. NAHB feels the regulation is unnecessary, but should it proceed, OSHA needs to ensure companies have flexibility in compliance options.

OSHA announced in October 2021 that it is considering a new standard that would “more clearly set forth employer obligations and the measures necessary to protect employees more effectively from hazardous heat.” The agency has revealed potential contours of a new rule, including a few specifics, but has not issued a formal proposal yet.

OSHA convened Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panels last fall 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, including at least one NAHB member, participated in video conference calls.

A report from those panels made specific recommendations to OSHA on how to best tailor a heat injury standard to have the least impact on small businesses. NAHB’s most recent comments addressed the recommendations from the small business panel report.

NAHB strongly supports regulations that protects construction workers from illness, injury and death. But the current contours of the potential heat stress standard are largely unworkable, confusing and rigid.

For example, OSHA is considering heat triggers at specific temperatures to signal to business owners when new requirements kick in. A temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit could trigger new “high-heat” safety requirements, including mandating specific amounts of water per worker. Several NAHB members who primarily work in the southwest and other regions indicated the proposed temperature is reached during a majority of days throughout the year, making a nationwide high-heat trigger temperature impractical.

NAHB supports allowing businesses to have the ability to choose from multiple compliance options and the ability to select the best methods for protecting their employees from extreme heat hazards in ways that are workable, flexible and cost-effective.

When considering the subcontractor-heavy nature of residential construction, NAHB strongly urged OSHA to establish that each employer on site is responsible for providing water to its own workers as part of any heat-related standard.

Read the full comment letter. NAHB also signed on to a similar comments letter submitted by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, whose members include dozens of other construction-related trade associations.

A new potential heat stress standard from OSHA would have a profound impact on the home building industry. NAHB will remain engaged in the rulemaking process at every step.

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