Asuncíon Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act

Factsheet

By Juley Fulcher

Asuncíon Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R.2193/S.1068) Protecting Workers from Heat-Related Illness, Injury And Death


We call upon congress to pass legislation directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an interim heat standard to protect workers from excessive heat exposure.


Public Citizen leads the National Heat Stress Network, a coalition of more than 100 unions and organizations addressing workers’ rights, climate change, and health care that represents millions of workers in the United States. The Network petitioned OSHA in 2018 to issue a permanent standard to protect workers from heat-related illness, injury and death.[1]

IMPORTANT FACTS

  • Heat is the leading weather-related killer, and it is becoming more dangerous. Nine of the last 10 years have been the hottest on record. The summer of 2022 was the 3rd warmest on record in U.S.[2] On just one day — Sep. 9, 2022 — nearly 1,000 heat records were broken in the U.S.[3]
  • Heat exposure is responsible for as many as 2,000 worker fatalities in the U.S. each year.[4]
  • Up to 170,000 workers in the U.S. are injured in heat stress related accidents annually.[5] There is a 1% increase in workplace injuries for every increase of 1° Celsius.[6]
  • The failure of employers to implement simple heat safety measures costs the U.S. economy nearly $100 billion every year.[7]
  • The dangers of heat stress are overwhelmingly borne by low-income workers. The lowest-paid 20% of workers suffer five times as many heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%.[8]
  • Worker heat-stress tragedies disproportionately strike workers who are poor, Black or Brown.[9]
  • There are many simple ways employers can mitigate heat stress in the workplace, like access to cool drinking water and adequate “cool down” breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned space.
  • At least 50,000 injuries and illnesses could be avoided in the U.S. each year with an effective OSHA heat standard.[10]

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF EXPOSURE TO EXCESSIVE HEAT?

Working in excessive heat can be extremely hazardous. When the body’s cooling systems are no longer able to function effectively workers can get heat-related illnesses ranging in severity from mild heat rash to more severe illnesses such as rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury, heat stroke, and heat-induced cardiac arrest. Workers who survive these more severe heat-related illnesses are often burdened with long term health effects, including muscle damage, organ damage and chronic kidney disease. Excessive heat in the workplace can also exacerbate existing chronic conditions like diabetes, COPD and cardiac disease, complicating the healthcare of these workers and potentially shaving years off of their lives.

The symptoms of heat related illnesses include heavy sweating, fatigue, nausea, headache, loss of balance and cognitive function, fainting, muscle cramps, and more. These symptoms can easily lead to accidents with a range of consequences for one or more workers, including injuries, long term disabilities or even fatalities.

Many occupations expose workers to dangerous heat stress risks, both indoors and outdoors. Examples of workers at particularly high risk are farm laborers, construction workers, utility workers, delivery drivers, first responders, refuse and recycling workers, oil rig workers and those who work in factories, warehouses, commercial laundries, restaurants, and bakeries.

WHAT CAN CONGRESS DO?

In 2021, the Biden administration began the process of creating a permanent heat standard. However, on average it takes OSHA seven to eight years to complete a final rule.[11] Workers can’t afford to wait.

Congress can empower OSHA to issue an interim standard that would protect workers until a final rule can be completed. It is essential that Congress takes this step. Helmed by Representatives Judy Chu, Raúl Garcia, Alma Adams, Bobby Scott, and Senators Sherrod Brown, Alex Padilla and Catherine Cortez Masto, The Asuncíon Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (named for a California farmer who died working under extreme heat conditions) would require OSHA to put an interim heat rule in place until the final heat rule is issued.

The bill has been voted out of the House Education and Labor Committee. The bill must be passed in the House and Senate prior to the end of the 117th Congress.

We call upon members of Congress to co-sponsor the Asuncíon Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R.2193/S.1068) and help get it to a floor vote.

For additional information, contact Juley Fulcher (jfulcher@citizen.org), Worker Health And Safety Advocate in Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division.


[1] Public Citizen et al., Petition to OSHA for a Heat Standard (July 17, 2018), https://bit.ly/3rcfWBk.

[2] Allison Finch, Summer of 2022 Ranks as Third Warmest on Record For Contiguous US, Accuweather (Sep. 13, 2022), https://bit.ly/3t9UcYP.

[3] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/202209

[4] Juley Fulcher, Boiling Point: OSHA Must Act Immediately to Protect Workers From Deadly Temperatures, Public Citizen (June 2022), https://bit.ly/3tfFlff.

[5] Id.

[6] Syeda Hira Fatima, Paul Rothmore, Lynne C. Giles, Blesson M. Varghese and Peng Bi, Extreme Heat and Occupational Injuries in Different Climate Zones: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Epidemiological Evidence, 148 Environment International 106384 (Mar., 2021),  https://bit.ly/3jGUEcL

[7] Luke A. Parsons, Yuta J. Masuda, Timm Kroeger, Drew Shindell, Nicholas H. Wolff and June T. Spector, Global Labor Loss Due to Humid Heat Exposure Underestimated for Outdoor Workers,17(1) Environmental Research Letters 014050 (2022), https://bit.ly/3DXvrWn; See, also,.

[8] R. Jisung Park, Nora Pankratz & A. Patrick Behrer, Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality, IZA Institute of Labor Economics DP No. 14560 3 (July 2021), https://bit.ly/2V3WriI.

[9] See, Fulcher, Boiling Point (2022), https://bit.ly/3tfFlff

[10] Fulcher, Boiling Point (2022), https://bit.ly/3tfFlff.

[11] See, e.g., Congressional Research Service, Cost Benefit Analysis in Federal Agency Rulemaking (Mar. 8, 2022 ), https://bit.ly/3RrAOjG.