Federal Workplace Temperature Rules Heat Up: The Kiplinger Letter

The passage of new federal workplace heat regulations may depend on several issues, including the outcome of the 2024 election.

There are many moving parts to the federal workplace heat rules, including separate regulations for indoor and outdoor work environments that can vary from one state to the next. To help you understand what is going on in the labor sector and what we expect to happen in the future, our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest… 

New federal workplace heat rules may depend on the 2024 election outcome. Regulators have completed less than half the steps they need to proceed with new regulations, many of which require rigorous scientific and economic analysis. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants two separate standards: One for outdoors and one for indoors, to be issued simultaneously. Indoor workplaces that might be covered by such a standard, including warehouses and kitchens, have a much different set of requirements than outdoor ones. 

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The experience of state regulators may be instructive. California, for example, began pursuing an indoor workplace heat standard in 2016, after issuing its first to protect farmworkers in 2005. The new rule won’t be ready until next year.

A big question: At what temperature will regulators impose requirements for employers? 
Most states with heat exposure regulations have set the threshold at 80 degrees Fahrenheit for both indoor and outdoor workers, but some variation between them exists. Minnesota, for example, adjusts its temperature threshold for indoor workers depending on the intensity of the labor involved in the job: 77 degrees for heavy labor, 80 degrees for moderate labor and 86 degrees for light labor.

Some other possible components of a federal heat standard:

  • A requirement that employers have a written heat stress prevention program (most currently do not)
  • For outdoor workers: Regular access to shade, paid rest time and cool water 
  • For indoor workers: Improved ventilation, increased air conditioning and insulation from heat sources
  • A set period for workers to acclimate to laboring in hot weather

This first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter. 

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Matthew Housiaux
Reporter, The Kiplinger Letter
Housiaux covers the White House and state and local government for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in June 2016, he lived in Sioux Falls, SD, where he was the forum editor of Augustana University's student newspaper, the Mirror. He also contributed stories to the Borgen Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on raising awareness of global poverty. He earned a B.A. in history and journalism from Augustana University.