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Groups Endorse Worker Heat Protections Legislation

Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act Would Require OSHA to Issue a Workplace Heat Standard

Note: At a Wednesday morning press conference, federal lawmakers will introduce legislation requiring the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop and issue a heat standard to protect indoor and outdoor workers. Then on Thursday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing on heat-related injuries and death in the workplace. Below are quotes from some of the organizations supporting the legislation.

“The climate crisis makes it imperative that workers have protection against the searing heat. It’s going to force society to do a lot of hard things. This is not one of them. The key elements to protect workers from dangerous heat are water, rest and shade. If the Trump administration is so insistent on denying the climate emergency or so opposed to protecting the lives of immigrant workers or so committed to its anti-regulatory zealotry that it refuses to issue a heat standard, then Congress will have to act. That’s why it is so important that Reps. Chu and Grijalva are leading the way with the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act.”

  • Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen

“We’ve attended the funerals of too many farm workers who needlessly died from extreme heat. So in 2005, the UFW convinced Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue the first comprehensive standards in the nation protecting California farm and other outdoor workers from extreme heat – and worked with Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to strengthen the rules and their enforcement in 2015. Those standards have saved countless lives and now must be taken nationwide.”

  • Teresa Romero, president, United Farm Workers

“As temperatures continue soaring, farm workers all over the country deserve to be protected from the dangers of heat. Immediate action is needed to stop unnecessary deaths by creating national heat rules such as those we won in California that clearly define workers’ rights to have access to water, shade, rest and trainings.”

  • Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director, United Farm Workers Foundation

“Farmworkers – people who labor on farms and ranches – are vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat. The grueling pace required of farmworkers picking our fresh fruits and vegetables and hours spent under the hot sun puts them at risk of death from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Unfortunately, too many employers do not offer reasonable protections against heat stress. And many farmworkers are reluctant to speak up about unsafe conditions due to fear of retaliation. Commonsense government action is needed to save lives, including a federal policy requiring adequate water, shade and rest breaks.”

  • Bruce Goldstein, president, Farmworker Justice

“As temperatures rise, workers in both indoor and outdoor locations face life-threatening risks from heat stress and dehydration. A national OSHA standard will save lives.”

  • Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health

“Migrant Clinicians Network is deeply concerned about the rising injuries and deaths resulting from heat. At greatest risk are outdoor workers, including farmworkers who toil in our fields to put food on our tables, landscape workers who are mowing our lawns and construction workers who are building our homes, offices and communities. Temperatures are rising. As they continue to increase, it is clear that we should have a national standard to protect worker health and to guide employers on the prevention of heat-related illness.”

  • Laszlo Madaras, chief medical officer, Migrant Clinicians Network

“We’ve just had the hottest June in recorded history and more intense heat waves are predicted as a result of man-made climate change. A commonsense national heat standard is long overdue but is now more important than ever. Workers laboring outdoors or indoors in the extreme heat have been neglected for too long.”

  • Julian Medrano, public policy director, Interfaith Worker Justice

“ISEA supports commonsense legislation to protect outdoor and indoor workers from occupational exposure to excessive heat. In addition to rest, shade and hydration, when heat exposure levels reach the recommended exposure limit, safety equipment to protect workers from heat-related illnesses, such as cooling vests and cooling towels, must be provided to workers as part of a comprehensive safety program. The work being done by our legislative leaders to establish a standard for heat stress is a great example of their dedication to keeping workers safer in our nation, regardless of party lines.”

  • Charles Johnson, president, International Safety Equipment Association

“Climate disruption is fueling more extreme summer heat and threatening our health like never before. Millions of Americans have to face these rising temperatures in the course of their daily work – putting their paychecks, their health, and even their lives at risk. This game-changing bill will for the first time create an enforceable federal safeguard specific to the health risks of extreme heat and protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation. It’s a life-saver.”

  • Kim Knowlton, senior scientist and deputy director of the Science Center, Natural Resources Defense Council

“The latest science from the National Climate Assessment makes clear that extreme heat is likely to increase dramatically across the country as the century unfolds if we don’t rein in global warming emissions. According to the science, we can stave off increases in extreme heat – which is especially dangerous to outdoor workers and our economy – if we take bold action on climate change now.”

  • Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists

“The Center for Progressive Reform enthusiastically endorses the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act. We stand proudly with workers and lawmakers in demanding that OSHA act now to protect indoor and outdoor workers from extreme heat. This bill is a much-needed first step in reducing and eliminating climate risks to workers, and we’re looking forward to its passage.”

  • Matthew Shudtz, executive director, Center for Progressive Reform

“We proudly stand with our hard-working brothers and sisters who are now being forced to labor through life-threatening and ever-rising heat for profit. We must have heat stress protections to literally save workers’ lives, and this legislation will effectively and efficiently address this crisis.”

  • Alan Minsky, executive director, Progressive Democrats Of America

“Farmworkers do the essential work that feeds the nation. Exposure to increasingly high temperatures and humidity without provisions for adequate access to water, cooling shade and breaks risks chronic dehydration, elevated core body temperature and acute kidney injury. No one should have to work a job that can damage their health.”

  • Jeannie Economos, health and safety project coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida

“Frequent floods may grab headlines at present but rising temperatures will kill many more people as our climate crisis worsens. As a kidney doctor, I am already seeing heat-related hospital admissions. Since outdoor workers cannot effectively lower their body temperature when conditions exceed 95 degrees, we need this important heat stress legislation to protect them.”

  • Annemarie Dooley, climate & health task force member, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

“Representing more than 300 clinicians, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action is concerned for our patients’ health as excessive heat exposure poses a direct threat to workers and is associated with climate change. Eighteen of the 19 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. The Fourth National Climate Assessment identifies outdoor workers, who often labor in extreme heat without protections, as a population that ‘experience(s) increased climate risks due to a combination of exposure and sensitivity,’ which makes it imperative to have national standards to protect workers from this significant threat to their health.”

  • Robert Kitchen, vice chair for advocacy, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action

“We offer neighborhood-level training on Building Resilient Neighborhoods for extreme heat emergencies in Tucson, Arizona. Our mayor recently issued a proclamation on the importance of heat awareness and protection for everyone, especially including our outdoor and indoor workers.”

  • Barbara H. Warren, executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Arizona Chapter