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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: OSHAct 5(a)(1)

This letter constitues OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within the original correspondence.

October 17, 2001

Mr. Chip Terhorst
Apostolic Christian Services
2125 Veterans Road
Morton, IL 61550

Dear Mr. Terhost:

Thank you for your July 9 letter to President George W. Bush. Your letter was forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) [Directorate of Enforcement Programs] to answer your concern about your father being required to work in extreme heat. You suggested there should be a law prohibiting work if it is too hot in a work place.

OSHA does not have a specific regulation regarding heat stress. However, feasible and acceptable methods can be used to reduce heat stress hazards in workplaces. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Permitting workers to drink water at liberty;

  2. Establishing provisions for a work/rest regimen so that exposure time to high temperatures and/or the work rate is decreased;

  3. Developing a heat stress program which incorporates the following:

    1. A training program informing employees about the effects of heat stress, and how to recognize heat-related illness symptoms and prevent heat-induced illnesses;

    2. A screening program to identify health conditions aggravated by elevated environmental temperatures;

    3. An acclimation program for new employees or employees returning to work from absences of three or more days;

    4. Specific procedures to be followed for heat-related emergency situations;

    5. Provisions that first aid be administered immediately to employees displaying symptoms of heat-related illness.
We have included a Heat Stress Card (OSHA Publication 3154), which you may find interesting. You may also find additional outreach materials on heat stress on OSHA's web page at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/index.html.

Although OSHA does not have a specific regulation covering heat stress hazards, the "General Duty Clause," Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), requires each employer to, "furnish to each of his employees employment a nd a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." OSHA has previously used the General Duty Clause to cite employers that have allowed employees to be exposed to potential serious physical harm from excessively hot work environments.

The Act allows employees to file a confidential complaint with OSHA, which may result in an inspection. If your father feels he is being exposed to a serious hazard in the workplace or if your father (or his co-workers) feels that an unsafe or unhealthful work condition exists, he (or they) can file a complaint with the local OSHA Area Office. Your father may wish to contact the OSHA office closest to the Caterpillar facility where he works. That Office's contact information is:
Peoria Area Office
2918 W. Willows Knolls Road
Peoria, Illinois 61614
Phone: (309) 671-7033
Fax: (309) 671-7326
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult the OSHA website at
http://www.osha.gov. We hope you find this information helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement] at (202) 693-2190. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health.


John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary


[Corrected 5/28/2004]

Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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