In a First, Washington Will Draft Rules on Workplace Heat Dangers

Dr. Hondula pointed out that certain states and professional organizations like the United States Soccer Federation have already set limits on the time and duration workers can work in heat.
These guidelines could be used to inform a federal regulation. They include mandatory breaks for workers who work in extreme temperatures for a specific period of time and in some cases, the requirement that work stop when the heat index reaches a certain level. These guidelines also require that employers provide shade, water, and air-conditioning whenever possible and that workers are able to access medical attention if they are frequently exposed to heat.

However, if such guidelines are made federally, it could lead to higher costs and lower productivity in certain industries, especially if there is a requirement that outdoor construction work be stopped under certain heat conditions, Dr. Hondula stated.

He acknowledged that it could prove costly but noted that the economy already bears the brunt of heat-related illnesses and deaths. He said that we may be already absorbing some productivity costs.

Marc Freedman is the vice president of workplace policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He said that his organization was looking forward to being part of OSHA's rule-making process. He did however point out that the creation of a heat safety standard is not without its challenges.