In the summer of 2010, a worker defense project in Texas, an organization supporting migrant workers in the construction industry, organized a “Thirst strike“In front of Austin City Hall. More than a dozen workers and advocates sat in the June heat, and during a day when it reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit, there was no water for six hours.
The strikers hope that the city council will require employers to provide workers with drinking water and regular rest periods after the strike. Polls It was found that many construction workers did not receive it, even though the temperature in Austin was as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit. success -That year, the city council passed a decree requiring construction workers to rest for 10 minutes every four hours. In 2015, Dallas adopted a similar requirement.
but now, Republican lawmakers in Texas are pushing a bill This will eliminate these minimum protective measures that help workers survive on very hot days. The number and severity of these protective measures increase with climate change. Passed by the Texas Senate in May, the bill deprived municipalities of the ability to monitor employment benefits and policies. The bill was introduced to prevent cities from issuing protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as mandatory sick leave.
According to an analysis of census data by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 30 million Americans earn a living by doing physical labor outdoors, and they are increasingly working in extreme heat.From farm workers and forestry workers to construction and maintenance workers, outdoor workers are the most 35 times more likely to die According to past research, the number of people exposed to extreme heat is higher than that of the general population. However, although government agencies have documented and studied the risks of high-temperature work since at least the 1970s, the United States has not yet promulgated national labor standards to protect workers working in hot weather. In the absence of national standards, only a few cities and two states—California and Washington—have issued their own protection measures.
Two new reports released on Tuesday illustrate the consequences of government inaction and predict that if climate change is not quickly curbed, the impact of high temperatures on outdoor workers may become worse.
one Investigation by NPR and Columbia News Research Corporation It was found that since the early 1990s, the three-year average of high temperature deaths for workers has doubled, and workers of color have been hit hardest. Their analysis of data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that since 2010, 384 high-temperature-related on-the-job deaths have been recorded, of which one-third are Hispanic workers. But the survey said that this number was “greatly underestimated” because not all companies reported the number of worker deaths.
Since 1972, OSHA has been considering but refusing to issue national heating standards that specifically protect workers from high temperatures, such as setting mandatory water cuts. Enforcing more ambiguous regulations This requires employers to protect workers from “serious hazards recognized in the workplace”, including hazards related to high temperatures.
The NPR and Columbia reports and OSHA’s internal assessment found that the agency’s enforcement of this regulation in terms of heat is arbitrary and mostly ineffective in preventing deaths. The investigation found that at least 12 companies had multiple employees who died of high temperatures. In five of these cases, OSHA investigated the first death and issued a subpoena, but these actions did not prevent the second death. In at least one case with Hellas Construction of Fort Worth, Texas, OSHA negotiated a settlement agreement under which the company must implement new security measures. However, the record shows that Hellas did not execute, and OSHA did not follow up to execute the settlement. Since 2010, at least 53 workers in Texas have died of heat-related causes.
Former OSHA officials said that due to industry opposition, the agency postponed the development of enforceable heat standards. “Every time OSHA proposes a standard, [the] The industry accuses OSHA of stifling jobs and destroying any industry that will be regulated,” former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Baraboo told NPR and Columbia University.
But a new one Research by the Union of Concerned Scientists It warned that failure to protect workers could have serious economic consequences if the extreme high temperature weather becomes worse in the future. Researchers have found that under the condition that greenhouse gas emissions will not peak before 2040, by the middle of this century, outdoor workers will be exposed to temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher three times. Without proper salary and workplace protection measures, these hot days will result in loss of working hours and thus loss of income, resulting in a decrease of about 10% in the annual income of 4 million people, or a total of about 39 billion U.S. dollars. Research points out that this will have a knock-on effect on the entire community, reducing local income tax revenue and increasing demand for public services. But the author writes that adaptation measures, such as adjusting the work schedule to colder times of the day and reducing the workload, may prevent these effects.
Texas’s preemptive purchase bill is currently in a state of uncertainty until House Democrats Fled the state earlier this summer To prevent allowing new votes to limit the passing quorum. The Democrats in Texas did not vote to veto a new law that would kill the protection of workers in Dallas and Austin, but the federal level finally has the incentive to develop new thermal safety standards. In March, Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown reintroduced the Asunción Valdivia Fever and Death Prevention Act, named after a farm worker in 2004 who worked at 105 degrees Fahrenheit Died in 2004 10 hours later. The bill will guide OSHA to develop new safety standards and training and education requirements to help workers deal with heat-related diseases.
But the Biden administration may set new safety standards without the push of Congress.This spring, the Ministry of Labor proposed a Request for Information Regarding the new calorie standard on its regulatory agenda. OSHA Acting Director Jim Frederick told NPR and Columbia that this is a “priority.”