Heat Safety Standard Bill Proposed in Congress

safety and construction
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Heat waves and intense summer temperatures can be deadly, especially for those that work in physical jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics'(BLS) most recent data, 38 workers died from exposure to temperature extremes in 2017. A newly proposed bill to Congress could help mitigate these dangers.

In July, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA)along with 21 other representatives introduced H.R. 3668 Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Prevention Act, which if passed would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to create within 42 months, a standard to protect workers, indoors and out, from heat-related injuries and illnesses.

Currently, OSHA has a Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, which includes resources, education and guidelines on the dangers of working in heat, but no related standards. 

The act, named for a worker who died of heatstroke while working for 10 hours straight in 105-degree heat with no breaks, would require employers to create heat plans to safeguard against the health risks of working in dangerously hot temperatures, including mandatory paid breaks, shade or cool-down areas, reliable access to water, limitations on how long workers can be exposed to high temperatures and emergency response plans.

If passed, the legislation would also require employers to provide annual training for employees and supervisors on heat safety, recordkeeping on heat-related illnesses and deaths and protection for whistleblowers reporting unsafe heat conditions. 

Concerns over worker’s exposure to heat was also raised in 2018when more than 130 organizations and 90 individuals petitionedthe acting OSHA leader Loren Sweatt to create a federal heat standard as part of a campaign led by Public Citizen, a nonprofit, liberal consumer rights advocacy group. The group cited data from the BLS that states from 1992 through 2016 exposure to excessive environmental heat stress killed 783 U.S. workers and seriously injured 69,374 workers. Signatories included major universities, public health organizations, other advocacy groups and two former OSHA directors. 

H.R. 2668 has been referred to the House Committee on Educational and Labor and another 30 representatives have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation. 

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