In April, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a new initiative targeting employee safety when the heat index exceeds 80°F. The National Emphasis Program (NEP) for Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards expands on the agency’s ongoing heat-related illness-prevention initiative by adding a targeted enforcement component, emphasizing compliance assistance and increasing outreach efforts. NEPs are temporary programs that focus OSHA's resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. There are 11 NEPs now in effect, including ones covering hazardous machinery, hexavalent chromium and combustible dust.

The heat NEP encourages early interventions by employers, which means putting preventive measures in place such as implementing water and rest breaks, training, acclimatization procedures and using feasible abatement methods. Under this emphasis program, OSHA inspectors will specifically look for heat-injury preventive measures even when not called in on a heat-related issue. The 80°F heat-index NEP is separate from the rule OSHA is proposing that would create a permanent regulatory structure.

OSHA held a stakeholders meeting on the broader rule May 3. In the interim, employers should factor in the newly released heat-index NEP into their operations, especially as the summer months approach. You can find more information on the heat and other NEPs here: