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DOL/OSHA RIN: 1218-AD39 Publication ID: Fall 2021 
Title: Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings 

Heat is the leading weather-related killer, and it is becoming more dangerous as 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record. Excessive heat can cause heat stroke and even death if not treated properly.  It also exacerbates existing health problems like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease. Workers in agriculture and construction are at highest risk, but the problem affects all workers exposed to heat, including indoor workers without climate-controlled environments. Essential jobs where employees are exposed to high levels of heat are disproportionately held by Black and Brown workers.

Heat stress killed 815 US workers and seriously injured more than 70,000 workers from 1992 through 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is likely a vast underestimate, given that injuries and illnesses are under reported in the US, especially in the sectors employing vulnerable and often undocumented workers. Further, heat is not always recognized as a cause of heat-induced injuries or deaths and can easily be misclassified, because man of the symptoms overlap with other more common diagnoses.

To date, California, Washington, Minnesota, and the US military have issued heat protections. OSHA currently relies on the general duty clause (OSH Act Section 5(a))(1)) to protect workers from this hazard.  Notably, from 2013 through 2017, California used its heat standard to conduct 50 times more inspections resulting in a heat-related violation than OSHA did nationwide under its general duty clause. It is likely to become even more difficult to protect workers from heat stress under the general duty clause in light of the 2019 Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission’s decision in Secretary of Labor v. A.H. Sturgill Roofing, Inc.

OSHA was petitioned by Public Citizen for a heat stress standard in 2011. The Agency denied this petition in 2012, but was once again petitioned by Public Citizen, on behalf of approximately 130 organizations, for a heat stress standard in 2018 and 2019. Most recently in 2021, Public Citizen petitioned OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard on heat stress. OSHA is still considering these petitions and has neither granted nor denied to date. In 2019 and 2021, some members of the Senate also urged OSHA to initiate rulemaking to address heat stress.

Given the potentially broad scope of regulatory efforts to protect workers from heat hazards, as well as a number of technical issues and considerations with regulating this hazard (e.g., heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, medical monitoring), a Request for Information would allow the agency to begin a dialogue and engage with stakeholders to explore the potential for rulemaking on this topic.

Agency: Department of Labor(DOL)  Priority: Other Significant 
RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Prerule Stage 
Major: No  Unfunded Mandates: No 
CFR Citation: None     (To search for a specific CFR, visit the Code of Federal Regulations.)
Legal Authority: Not Yet Determined   
Legal Deadline:  None

Statement of Need:

Heat stress killed more than 900 US workers, and caused serious heat illness in almost 100 times as many, from 1992 through 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  However, this is likely a vast underestimate, given that injuries and illnesses are underreported in the US, especially in the sectors employing vulnerable and often undocumented workers.  Further, heat is not always recognized as a cause of heat-induced illnesses or deaths, which are often misclassified, because many of the symptoms overlap with other more common diagnoses.  Moreover, climate change is increasing the heat hazard throughout the nation:  2020 was either the hottest or the second hottest year on record, with 2021 on track to be even hotter.  Although official figures are not yet available, we already know that in many states heat related deaths are higher are far higher than normal this year.

Summary of the Legal Basis:

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes the Secretary of Labor to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women (29 U.S.C. 651).


One alternative to proposed rulemaking would be to take no regulatory action.  As OSHA develops more information, it will also make decisions relating to the scope of the standard and the requirements it may impose.

Anticipated Costs and Benefits:

The estimates of costs and benefits are still under development.


Analysis of risks is still under development.

Action Date FR Cite
ANPRM  10/27/2021  86 FR 59309   
ANPRM Comment Period End  12/27/2021 
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined  Government Levels Affected: Undetermined 
Federalism: No 
Included in the Regulatory Plan: Yes 
RIN Data Printed in the FR: No 
Agency Contact:
Andrew Levinson
Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building, Room N-3718,
Washington, DC 20210
Phone:202 693-1950