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Grassroots Organizing Pays Off as Biden Administration Takes Action on Extreme Heat

Monday, September 20, 2021
Press Contacts: 

Melissa Moriarty, melissa@nationalcosh.org, 603.505.7135

Grassroots Organizing Pays Off as Biden

Administration Takes Action on Extreme Heat

 

LOS ANGELES -- Leaders of the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today that years of grassroots organizing is paying off as the Biden Administration announced today major steps to protect workers and communities from extreme heat due to climate change.

“When we organize, we win,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “The danger to workers from extreme heat due to climate change has been known for some time.  Workers, our unions, workers’ centers, National COSH and many partners and allies have been organizing and advocating for real protections for workers for years. Today, the White House is listening to workers -- which means we can reduce risk and save lives.”

Based on information provided by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, National COSH has identified 41 fatalities among U.S. workers where heat was a factor between April and September of 2020.  The average temperature on the dates when fatalities occurred was 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In addition, recent research from the University of California, Los Angeles, indicates that many heat-related injuries and fatalities are not properly accounted for, with an estimate of as many as 20,000 heat-related injuries every year. 

“Extreme heat will be a fact of life for many years to come,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. “Whether your job is indoors or outdoors, all workers need strong protection, so we’re glad to see OSHA begin the process of writing a new standard on heat stress.”

An effective heat stress standard, said Goldstein-Gelb, should include allowing workers to gradually increase workloads, with frequent breaks; planning for emergencies; training workers on heat hazards and first aid responses, and monitoring workers for signs of illness. Planning for emergencies and training workers on heat hazards and appropriate first aid measures.

“While the rulemaking process is underway, every employer has an ongoing responsibility to provide a workplace free from known hazards -- including extreme heat,” said Goldstein-Gelb.  “Rest, water and shade will save lives for workers outdoors and rest, water and proper ventilation will do the same for workers indoors. All employers need to have a plan to identify and control heat in the workplace”

“The threat to workers from extreme heat is very real, and it’s happening every day,” said Peter Dooley, health and safety project consultant at National COSH. “It’s important to see that OSHA will take immediate steps -- including an enforcement initiative and targeted inspections -- that can support workers to demand relief from dangerous, overheated workplaces.”

“States that administer their own workplace safety plans need to take similar action,” said Dooley, “and proceed with enforcement and standards that are at least as strong -- if not stronger -- than federal requirements.”

At present, only four states -- California, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington -- have safety standards to protect workers from extreme heat.” 

A bilingual “Know the Facts” slide show is available at NationalCOSH.org, with information for workers on how to identify and demand protections from heat hazards. National COSH will work with its affiliates, partners and allies to ensure that workers know about their rights to protection from extreme heat. By joining together, workers can demand and win better safety practices, and also file complaints against employers who are not taking steps to reduce the risk of heat stress. 

 

For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.