Heat illness, Injuries and Illness, Personnel Safety

AIHA Urges Maryland to Withdraw Heat Stress Draft

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), along with 37 other organizations, 35 individuals, and the Maryland Heat Illness Prevention Coalition (MHIPC), urged Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) in a letter to withdraw its draft heat stress standard.

MOSH published its proposed standard October 7. The proposed state rule “is completely inadequate and will not protect Maryland workers from heat-related illnesses and death,” the AIHA and the other MHIPC members claimed in their letter. “Nor, as written, will MOSH be able to effectively enforce the standard.”

The proposed standard does not establish requirements for hazard controls to prevent injury, illness, or death, according to the group, but only contains provisions that address heat illness once a worker becomes sick.

The MHIPC called the proposal’s language “weak” and called for both clear triggers for the standard’s application and a requirement for written heat illness prevention and management programs.

The group urged Maryland to develop a standard like those in California and Oregon and suggested changes that include:

  • Starting with a clear temperature trigger for the standard’s requirements.
  • Establishing a trigger of, at most, a heat index of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (F). The Maryland draft standard doesn’t require an employer to consider heat a hazard until the heat index is 88 degrees F.
  • Requiring a written plan to provide clarity to workers and others regarding
    what must be done to reduce the risk of heat-related illness or death.
  • Adding further requirements for precautions in conditions of extreme heat, which other states define as a heat index of 95 degrees F or higher.
  • Specifying quantities of potable water that employers must provide. For example, Oregon requires that water be available in sufficient quantities to allow employees to drink up to 32 ounces per hour.
  • Specifying requirements for heat acclimatization, rest, and shade.

The group also urged Maryland to address indoor heat hazards from sources that include inadequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; nonfunctioning HVAC systems; or a lack of systems to control extreme heat such as radiant heat from equipment like hot ovens and furnaces. The group also called for the state to detail risk factors like clothing and workload that exacerbate heat risks.

The MHIPC also recommended that Maryland establish requirements for heat risk assessments, a hierarchy of controls for heat hazards, competent persons to administer a heat illness prevention program or stop work if conditions become hazardous, the right to refuse to work in hazardous conditions, physiological monitoring, and emergency preparedness and medical removal.

The group also urged Maryland to include a provision for worker participation.

There is no federal heat stress or heat illness prevention standard, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a rulemaking for indoor and outdoor heat hazards. On October 27, 2021, OSHA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings containing 114 questions about a potential standard.

OSHA currently cites employers in cases of heat illness and fatality under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.