On the last day of ASSP’s in-person show last month in Austin, Texas, Jim Frederick, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, spoke to attendees on COVID-19 and OSHA’s current priorities.

He stressed the importance of workplace safety and health, now more than ever, and said OSHA has “worked diligently since January to move on President Biden’s executive order to help protect workers from contracting COVID-19.

We are also prioritizing, getting our compliance officers on site during inspections, while also taking the necessary steps to ensure our workers’ safety. A pandemic is still evolving, and we'll continue to monitor vaccination progress, virus variance, and other factors that will guide our continued efforts to ensure workers are protected from the virus while they're on the job.”

Hiring at OSHA

He said OSHA is requesting an increase of more than $73M, mainly for hiring more than 200 additional compliance officers and support staff to bolster enforcement efforts.

“We need to continue to build and strengthen OSHA's enforcement program and ensure that the full range of enforcement tools are available to be used to make the greatest impact on worker health and safety. We're doing that by rebuilding OSHA's inspection capacity… But it's not just that, we also need to make sure that we're focusing our resources and our efforts where they'll have the greatest impact. We need to make sure we use our full range of enforcement tools and and try to have the vast impact we can.”

National program to combat heat-related hazards

OSHA is implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, developing a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections, and launching a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard. In addition, the agency is forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide better understanding of challenges and to identify and share best practices to protect workers.

OSHA implemented an intervention and enforcement initiative recently to prevent and protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths while they are working in hazardous hot environments. The newly established initiative prioritizes heat-related interventions and inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

“While agricultural and construction workers often come to mind first when thinking about workers most exposed to heat hazards, without proper safety actions, sun protection and climate-control, intense heat can be harmful to a wide variety of workers indoors or outdoors and during any season,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.

The OSHA initiative applies to indoor and outdoor worksites in general industry, construction, agriculture and maritime where potential heat-related hazards exist. On days when a recognized heat temperature can result in increased risks of heat-related illnesses, OSHA will increase enforcement efforts. Employers are encouraged to implement intervention methods on heat priority days proactively, including regularly taking breaks for water, rest, shade, training workers on how to identify common symptoms and what to do when a worker suspects a heat-related illness is occurring, and taking periodic measurements to determine workers’ heat exposure.

OSHA Area Directors will institute the following:

  • Prioritize inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses and initiate an onsite investigation where possible.
  • Instruct compliance safety and health officers, during their travels to job sites, to conduct an intervention (providing the agency’s heat poster/wallet card, discuss the importance of easy access to cool water, cooling areas and acclimatization) or opening an inspection when they observe employees performing strenuous work in hot conditions.
  • Expand the scope of other inspections to address heat-related hazards where worksite conditions or other evidence indicates these hazards may be present.


In October, OSHA plans to take a step toward a federal heat standard to ensure protections in workplaces across the country by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The advance notice will initiate a comment period allowing OSHA to gather diverse perspectives and technical expertise on topics including heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers