Scott and Colleagues Urge OSHA to Adopt Federal Heat Standards

August 6, 2021
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03) joined Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), and Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urging them to adopt federal heat standards for workers. The Congressmembers submitted a letter to Labor Secretary Walsh outlining the dangers extreme heat poses to blue-collar workers in various industries. Additionally, the letter explains the need for such protections as climate change creates longer and hotter heat waves each year.

“Excessive heat is one of the most common and dangerous workplace hazards. Yet, half a century after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established, we still have no federal standard that protects workers against heat illnesses and fatalities. Without this basic protection, hundreds of workers in fields, factories, warehouses, and other workplaces continue to suffer needless and preventable deaths,” said Chairman Scott. “In March, I was proud to join Representatives Chu, Adams, and Grijalva in introducing legislation that would require OSHA to expedite a federal heat standard. However, OSHA has the authority and responsibility to act on its own. I urge DOL to use that authority to help ensure that workers return home safety each day.”

“Unchecked climate change is causing record-breaking heat waves in the West and Northwest of the U.S. Many areas are experiencing unusually extreme heat for the first time in recent history,” said Rep. Chu. “This new climate pattern is especially hazardous for our country’s farmworkers, who are roughly 20 times more likely to die of heat-related causes than workers in all other civilian occupations.

“It’s not right for millions of workers to be exposed to life-threatening working conditions, especially the essential workers who continue to keep our country afloat during a global pandemic. Earlier this year, I reintroduced the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act (H.R. 2193), which will direct OSHA to adopt a final standard for heat stress to protect workers against occupational exposure to excessive heat, both in indoor and outdoor environments. But as the extreme heat continues around the country, workers cannot wait. They need help immediately. That is why my colleagues and I are sending a letter to call on the Department of Labor to act swiftly to enact an enforceable federal standard of heat protections for workers in non-climate controlled environments.” 

“Climate change has increased the hazards for workers who spend eight to twelve hours a day in record-breaking heat. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a workplace safety standard ‘to protect the health of workers exposed to heat and hot environments.’ However, OSHA does not have a federal standard protecting workers from occupational exposure to excessive heat. Neither do most states, including my home state of North Carolina. A nationwide standard is vitally important to the health and safety of workers in my state and across the country,” said Rep. Adams, Chairwoman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor. “OSHA must protect workers from the strain and potentially fatal effects of heat on the job. If OSHA does not act, Congress must.”

“As climate change exacerbates already scorching heat temperatures in Arizona and across the country, it’s negatively impacting our workforce and creating conditions that can prove fatal,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The time is now for the Labor Department to issue an emergency OSHA standard to protect those working in extreme heat conditions, hold employers accountable, and prevent workers from succumbing to heat exhaustion. Climate change is no longer an existential threat, and protections for our workers must reflect that.”

The full text of the letter can be found HERE

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