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Statement: Public Citizen Applauds Rulemaking To Protect Workers From Heat Hazards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will take a major step forward tomorrow in publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. Public Citizen first petitioned for a national heat stress standard in 2011. 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 serious illness, injury and even death as climate change continues to make an already-urgent crisis even more dangerous. OSHA’s commitment to issue a heat illness and injury prevention standard is a win for workers everywhere.

“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 and U.C. Davis heat illness prevention expert Dr. Mark Schenker. We renewed our request with new urgency following the clear evidence of a warming plant that we saw in the summer of 2021, asking for an Emergency Temporary Standard until a final heat rule could be completed. OSHA has examined our petition and the large body of information amassed on the problem and decided to move forward with creating this essential rule.

“Millions of outdoor and indoor workers labor in extreme heat, which exposes them to a range of dangerous illnesses, including heat exhaustion, death of muscle tissue, heatstroke, and death. These workers are also likely facing long-term health risks, possibly shortening their lives.

“The riskiest high heat jobs are disproportionately held by Black and Brown workers. Hispanic/Latinx employees have accounted for a third of all heat fatalities, despite representing only 17% of the U.S. workforce. The rate for construction workers born in Mexico is a whopping 91% higher than the average and black construction workers were 51% more likely to die from heat exposure.

“With inadequate measures to cool down, workers are unable to function at full capacity.

“In the U.S. we lose approximately $100 billion per year in worker productivity due to occupational heat stress. Approximately 60% of U.S. counties lose greater than $5 million per year in heat-related productivity.”