The petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reads:
"Protect farmworkers, construction workers and warehouse workers from extreme heat. Pass heat illness prevention rules now."
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After picking California grapes for 10 hours in weather that was over 100 degrees, Asuncion Valdivia died from heat exposure in 2004. She was 53. Her tragic death catalyzed California lawmakers to finally pass a law protecting workers from extreme heat.1
But California is one of only three states that protect workers from heat illness.2 As climate change fuels scorching heat records, deaths like Valdivia's will become only more common unless the federal government acts to protect workers.
Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other type of natural disaster, according to the Center for Climate Change and Health.3 Heat is linked to heat stroke, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, respiratory illness and cardiovascular illness.4
From 1992 to 2016, heat killed at least 783 workers in the United States and seriously injured nearly 70,000.5 But even these numbers are likely underestimated, because undocumented workers fear retaliation or deportation for reporting problems. These workers are also especially vulnerable to heat illness because insisting on rest breaks or water could threaten their jobs or safety.
The United Farm Workers Foundation, Farmworker Justice, Public Citizen and more than 130 other groups recently submitted a petition calling for OSHA to protect workers from heat.6 The proposed rules would impose mandatory rest breaks, hydration and access to shade or cooled spaces. The rules would cover outdoor workers, including farmworkers and construction workers, as well as warehouse workers and other indoor workers.
Without action to protect workers, the incidence of deaths and illness will rise along with temperatures. As the climate warms, summers are getting both hotter and longer. This July, the United States saw 41 heat records nationwide – but zero record minimums.7
Heat illness prevention rules would save the lives of the people who pick our food, build our homes and offices, and ship our goods. No one should have to risk their life for a paycheck.
Tell OSHA: Protect workers from extreme heat. Click the link below to sign the petition:
- Brandy Doyle, CREDO Action
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Death in the Fields, Desert Sun