July 16, 2018

MEDIA ADVISORY

More Than 130 Advocacy Groups and Two Former OSHA Directors to Call for National Worker Protections from Heat

July 17 Telephone Press Conference Will Include Workers Exposed to Extreme Heat, Lawmaker, Advocates, Two Former OSHA Directors, a Former Cal/OSHA Director and a Leading Medical Researcher

WHAT: Telephone press conference to call for a national U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard to protect workers from heat. As part of a campaign launched by Public Citizen, United Farm Workers Foundation and Farmworker Justice, more than 130 labor, public health, environmental justice and environmental groups – along with two former directors of OSHA, the former director of Cal/OSHA, an expert in preventing heat illness and nearly 100 individual petitioners – will submit a petition to that agency calling for national protections for workers endangered by extreme heat. Already, heat is the leading weather-related killer in the U.S. As greenhouse gas pollution increasingly warms the planet, the toll that heat takes on workers is rising. The government says that 69,374 workers were seriously injured from heat between 1992 and 2016, and 783 U.S. workers died from heat exposure. These numbers are generally agreed to be gross undercounts.

After a spate of heat-related deaths of farm workers, in 2005 the United Farm Workers helped convince then-Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make California the first state in the nation to issue comprehensive state standards protecting farm and other outdoor workers from heat-related death or illness. Those standards were strengthened under Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015. They have saved countless lives. The only other jurisdictions that may have heat standards in place are Washington state, Minnesota and the U.S. military. In the absence of a federal heat stress standard, OSHA polices excessive heat only by enforcing a general requirement that employers provide safe workplaces. Its enforcement is grossly inadequate. In the most recent five-year period (2013 through 2017), Cal/OSHA conducted 50 times more inspections resulting in a citation or violation for unsafe heat exposure practices than OSHA did nationwide during that same period. Moreover, Cal/OSHA levied nearly $12 million in fines on companies in violation of its heat stress standard within that timeframe.

In most of the U.S., workers are laboring in extreme heat, often with no protections from heat stress, in a wide range of indoor and outdoor workplaces, including farms, construction sites, steel mills, warehouses, vehicles, telecommunications worksites and manufacturing and meat-packing plants. Speakers will detail firsthand experiences with heat illnesses, explain how climate change is making heat more deadly and outline common-sense solutions – such as acclimatization, adequate hydration, shade and sufficient rest breaks.

Public Citizen also will release a report detailing:

  • The dangerous heat conditions for workers across the country;
  • How climate change will rapidly exacerbate heat hazards;
  • Accounts of worker heat-related injuries and fatalities;
  • Existing heat stress policies; and
  • Why a heat stress standard is needed and what elements it should include.

WHEN: 12 pm EDT/9 am PDT, Tuesday, July 17

WHO: U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.)
David Arkush, director, Climate Program, Public Citizen (moderator)
Raudel Felix Garcia, brother of Audon Felix García, a California farmworker who died from heat
Arthur Fatu, airline catering truck driver, United Airlines, Houston, UNITE HERE leader
David LeGrande, former director of occupational safety and health, Communication Workers of America
Beau Easter, telecommunications worker, McKinney, Texas, Communication Workers of America Local 6210, member and shop steward
Arturo Rodriguez, president, United Farm Workers
Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida
Sidney Wolfe, MD, founder and senior advisor, Health Research Group, Public Citizen
Eula Bingham, PhD, former OSHA director, 1977-1980
David Michaels PhD, MPH, former OSHA director, 2009-2016
Ellen Widess, former Cal/OSHA chief, 2011-2013, Board Member, Farmworker Justice
Marc Schenker, MD, MPH, Heat Illness Prevention Expert, U.C. Davis

CALL-IN: (800) 875-3456
Verbal Passcode: ARKU-32881

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