|NOIRA on Heat Illness Prevention
|Ended on 6/9/2021
While the protection of workers from heat related illness should be emphasized in an employer’s health and safety program, the requirements included in this proposal could be easily implemented as a best management practice or regulatory point of emphasis instead of over-arching regulation.
Federal OSHA guidelines, campaigns, and technical information already exist to provide a framework for reducing or eliminating heat-related stress in the workplace without the need for state mandates. Virginia’s natural gas industry has a proven health and safety record that includes regular Heat Stress training for its employees and these Best Practices should be recognized in lieu of a one size fits all regulatory approach that may make compliance difficult or unattainable for some employers and/or industries.
Diverse work environments, independent workers without direct daily supervision, and the worker’s own poor personal judgements or actions (even after being trained) present unavoidable issues that the language of this proposed regulation subjects Virginia’s industry to repercussions.
Due to the diverse work environments, industries, and fitness of employees, it is feared an over-arching regulation may have unintended consequences. Those employees that are in poor physical condition, aged, and pregnant should not be discriminated against yet this proposal could potentially keep these workers from performing their jobs. The heat related fatalities in Virginia relate to only a few industries; therefore an over-arching regulation is unfounded. DOLI-VOSH can make this an area of emphasis and enforce under the general duty clause, as needed in these industries.
Heat acclimation is a scientifically-based process. However, individual acclimation cannot be gauged or known immediately, this puts an undue obligation on employers or the employee to declare when an employee is properly acclimated.
Tolerance and acclimation can also be related to employee’s personal fitness and choices. Medical conditions, off-duty alcohol consumption and obesity are leading indicators for susceptibility to heat illness that employers will not be able to control.
Please consider that due to the individualized nature of heat illness, comprehensive regulation does not fit in this case.
It would be more prudent for VOSH to review existing regulation internally and then make points of emphasis for the Commonwealth. An analysis of heat related illness incidents, by industry, within the Commonwealth should be undertaken prior to any regulatory action and would likely point to the fact that a new, over-arching regulation is not needed.