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Statement: Worker Heat Stress Protections Are Long Overdue, Desperately Needed

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) jointly introduced the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, that would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set a heat standard to protect workers. Public Citizen has long called for OSHA to implement such protections for workers. Juley Fulcher, worker health and safety advocate at Public Citizen, released the following statement in support of the bill:

“This bill is long overdue and will ensure workers across the country are able to safely do their jobs protected from the danger of heat stress.”

“Heat stress is one of the most dangerous hazards for millions of workers. Excessive temperatures can cause heatstroke and death, and repetitive heat exhaustion and dehydration can lead to long-term damage to the body.

“Despite more than 70,000 workers seriously injured by heat stress between 1992 and 2018, which has resulted in at least 864 deaths, only Washington state, California, Minnesota, and the U.S. military have standards that require employers to protect workers from heat hazards.

“Heat is the leading weather-related killer, claiming more lives every year in the U.S. than hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined. And the climate crisis is making it worse, with rising temperatures and destructive heat waves magnifying the danger to workers.

“While heat stress can present itself in a variety of different industries, it’s all too common in outdoor jobs such as agriculture, construction, waste management, and postal and delivery services, among others. Indoor heat stress is prevalent in steel mills, warehouses, factories, electrical utilities, bakeries, commercial kitchens and laundries.

“Heat-related illness is preventable. Access to plenty of water, shaded rest breaks, cooling vests, increased ventilation or air conditioning indoors, and simple shields protecting workers from heat-generating machinery can make the difference between life and death.”