Heat Illness – A HOT Topic

Okay… I’ll never be a comedian with that kind of material….

Today OSHA announced its continued targeting of agriculture for its efforts in preventing injuries and illnesses from heat in both indoor and outdoor settings. In the press release linked below, OSHA has said it will be focusing a lot of outreach and enfacement on the agriculture sector and particularly in areas where a high number of H-2A workers are employed.

OSHA has been working on a Heat Injury and Illness Enforcement rule for nearly two years. Last week Acting Labor Secretary told a Congressional committee the agency intends to have a draft rule published later this year. It seems this will be the second summer in a row that OSHA will be inspecting and enforcing heat issues without a proper rulemaking

What does that mean for us as cotton ginners? That’s still a bit unclear. The first Summer OSHA had a focus on heat injury and illnesses the region to our west inspected 13 cotton gins in Mississippi. None of the gins that were visited had full inspections and all had some version of a plan for heat illnesses and injuries. With the increased focus on H-2A it may change the dynamic a bit.

Last fall, OSHA held a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Advisory (SBREFA) Panel The SBREFA panel included two cotton ginners.. one from Texas and Wes Morgan from North Carolina. Many of the small businesses that participated in the panel said similar things…particularly those in the South. Employers understand heat as we have mostly grown up in it. They take steps to make sure new employees are properly acclimatized and they provide PLENTY of water rest and shade.

At this point (even given all that has been done in the past) our advice is to visit OSHA’s heat illness and injury page and review the materials, post the posters and distribute the handouts to your employees as it begins to get warm this summer. That page can be found here: www.osha.gov/heat