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Texas Heat Wave Threatens Workers and Public Safety

July 24, 2018

Texas Heat Wave Threatens Workers and Public Safety

Organizations File Petition – Joined by Former OSHA Officials – Urging Agency to Issue National Heat Protection Standard

AUSTIN, Texas – The heat wave baking Texas this week underscores the need for nationwide protections for workers from extreme heat. More than 130 organizations filed a petition (PDF) last week to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urging the federal government to establish protections for workers who are subject to extreme temperatures. Joining the petition were former OSHA Directors Dr. Eula Bingham and Dr. David Michaels, former California/OSHA Director Ellen Widess, heat illness prevention researcher Dr. Marc Schenker and 89 other individuals.

Much of Central Texas is under an extreme heat advisory this week. In Austin, temperatures reached 110 degrees on July 23, breaking a 64-year-old record for the month.

“Climate change is making summer temperatures worse,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The situation for outdoor workers is critical. The federal government must act now to protect our workforce and other vulnerable populations.”

A 2000 study by the National Center for Farmworker Health estimated that Texas is home to 360,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers. Additionally, as many as half of Texas’ construction workforce may be migrant workers, many of whom often are unable or reluctant to speak up about dangerous working conditions. In 2015, Texas suffered 340 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses caused by extreme heat, more than any other state.

Public Citizen, in partnership with United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice, recently launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on the health and safety of workers, while also urging national heat protection standards to prevent injuries and deaths from outdoor and indoor heat stress.