Written by: Gary Huddleston | September 20, 2023
It’s not an absolute certainty that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will release a new standard, but all signs seem to be pointing in that direction. OSHA has been working on a proposed standard for quite some time now, and there is evidence the agency may be in the final stages of publicizing a proposed rule.
One of OSHA’s last steps before publicizing a new rule is undergoing the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process, which is designed to give small businesses more of a voice in the development of new regulations and assistance in understanding and complying with the regulations. When an OSHA proposal is expected to have a significant impact on a number of small entities, the agency must notify the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of Advocacy, which then recommends that small entity representatives (SERs) be consulted on the rule and its effects. Next, OSHA convenes a small business advocacy review panel, consisting of officials from the agency, the SBA's chief counsel for advocacy and the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The panel hears SERs’ comments and reviews OSHA’s draft proposed rule and related analyses. A written report of this interagency panel is submitted to OSHA within 60 days, upon which, OSHA reviews the report, makes any appropriate revisions to the rule, and publishes the proposed rule along with the panel's report in the Federal Register.
The potential Heat Injury and Illness standard reached the SBREFA stage in September. The SBA took applications for SERs, convened a panel and proceeded to set up a listening session to hear comments from SERs about the potential rule. There was so much interest in this potential new rule that the SBA had to set up six listening sessions to accommodate all of the SERs that applied. American Feed Industry Association members Tim Belstra and Larisa Bontrager, from Belstra Milling, participated in one of the listening sessions as a SER and did an excellent job representing AFIA members and presenting the concerns for our industry.
If OSHA proceeds with publicizing a proposed standard, the AFIA anticipates that a minimum requirement for facilities will be to create a written program for the prevention of heat injuries and illnesses. The program should:
address training employees and supervisors on how to recognize the signs of heat illness and the appropriate actions they should take.
include the use of engineering controls (e.g., fans or misters) and administrative controls (e.g., appropriate breaks, providing hydration, adjusting the normal work schedule).
set heat “trigger points” that would cause the company to deploy their various engineering and administrative controls.
address acclimatizing new employees, which could be something as simple as providing appropriate training and more frequent observations by supervisors during the first week.
The AFIA is hoping that OSHA will take into consideration the recommendations of the SERs and not burden facilities with a one-size-fits-all standard that is overly complicated and lacks the necessary flexibility for employers to determine and implement appropriate controls to protect their employees.
Belstra said it best:
“Any successful business cares about its employees and makes their safety a top priority. We hope that OSHA approaches this potential standard with a commonsense approach that is not overly burdensome on facilities.”