Statement: OHSA’s Commitment to Reviewing A National Heat Standard Is A Win For Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signaled a preliminary step towards a rulemaking to establish a federal occupational heat standard. For years, Public Citizen has pushed for a national heat stress standard. Juley Fulcher, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“Too many American workers have suffered from occupational heat stress. Countless more face injury and death as climate change continues to make an already-urgent crisis even more dangerous. OSHA’s commitment to review the issue is a win for workers everywhere.

“Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the U.S., killing more Americans annually than hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined. With global warming causing increases in the number of days at extremely high temperatures, this crisis is becoming more and more dangerous each year.

“Millions of outdoor and indoor workers labor in extreme heat in jobs that are disproportionately held by Black and Brown workers. These jobs expose workers to a range of dangerous heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, death of muscle tissue, heatstroke, and death. These workers are also likely facing long-term health risks, possibly shortening workers’ lives.

“Leaving workers unprotected from heat also has significant and damaging economic effects: reducing productivity, increasing the risk of accidents, and driving up medical expenses. It is estimated that employers in the U.S. spend $220 billion every year on injuries and illnesses related to excessive heat.

“OSHA has acknowledged the groundswell of support for a heat stress standard from the public, the advocacy community and Congress. The agency specified that Public Citizen’s rulemaking petition was still under consideration. Public Citizen, along with 130+ organizations petitioned OSHA in 2018 to issue a standard to protect workers from occupational exposure to excessive heat. We were joined in the petition by Farmworker Justice, United Farmworkers, former OSHA directors Drs. Eula Bingham and David Michaels, former CalOSHA director Ellen Widess, U.C. Davis heat illness prevention expert Dr. Mark Schenker.

“Public Citizen applauds the Biden administration’s decision to list a potential occupational heat stress protection rule in its biannual regulatory agenda and looks forward to engaging with OSHA on the need for a strong standard and welcome the agency’s intention to ‘begin a dialogue and engage with stakeholders to explore the potential for rulemaking.”