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March 01, 2024
ASSP issues for consensus standard for heat in construction work

On February 26, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) announced the publication of the first voluntary consensus standard for heat stress in construction and demolition work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no federal heat stress or heat illness prevention standard but has a rulemaking in the pre-rule stage to establish one.

The ASSP’s voluntary consensus standard, “Heat Stress Management in Construction and Demolition Operations” (American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ASSP A10.50-2024), offers guidance on protecting workers, explains how to acclimate workers to high-heat conditions, and provides requirements for training employees and supervisors. The standard, intended to fill a regulatory gap, contains checklists and flowcharts designed to help companies develop clear and effective heat stress management programs.

“This new industry consensus standard is an important development because there is no federal regulation focused on heat stress,” ASSP President Jim Thornton said in a statement. “Employers need expert guidance on how to manage heat-related risks. They must have the tools and resources to identify and help prevent work hazards before an incident occurs.”

The A10.50 standard offers engineering and administrative controls a company can implement to ensure workers get proper rest, water breaks, and shade while meeting its business needs. The standard’s recommendations include medical monitoring and the use of a buddy system to reduce risks and help prevent heat-related illnesses in a variety of work environments.

The ASSP cited Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showing that more than 400 work-related deaths have been caused by exposures to heat since 2011.

The A10.50 standard includes a detailed emergency response plan for when a worker has a severe reaction to excessive heat. The standard also includes a model heat stress management program with checklists.

The process of developing and writing the voluntary standard took 3 years, according to the ASSP. The A10.50 subcommittee included 30 safety and health experts from businesses, consulting firms, government agencies, trade unions, and universities.

“There are tens of thousands of heat-related illnesses each year linked to construction and demolition sites, and workers have died from exposures to excessive heat,” John Johnson, the A10 standards committee chair, said. “This new standard outlines industry best practices and proven solutions to protect workers who commonly do strenuous jobs in challenging conditions.”

The ASSP is an association of occupational safety and health professionals and a standards-setting organization. In its last fiscal year, it created, reaffirmed, or revised 15 standards, technical reports, and guidance documents addressing workplace health and safety concerns.

While there’s no federal heat stress or heat illness prevention standard, some states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, have their own standards. Minnesota has a standard for heat and cold exposures in the workplace.

Federal OSHA currently cites employers, often after fatalities or hospitalizations, using its authority under the General Duty Clause (§5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has criticized OSHA’s General Duty Clause enforcement, including the agency’s heat stress enforcement, as a “gotcha” or “catch-all” for workplace hazards without formal standards. Last year, the review commission vacated four OSHA citations of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for excessive heat exposures.

In 2022, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) of enforcement and outreach to address indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards.

OSHA is analyzing a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review of the heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings rulemaking completed in November.

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