Brown’s Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act Would Create Heat Protection Rules for Workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 20, 2022 – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call to discuss his legislation, the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, which would establish heat protection rules for workers. This legislation would create a universal heat standard requirement through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for workers who are threatened by hot working conditions.
“No worker should have to endure life-threatening heat to provide for their family. This would be an important step to protect Ohio workers on the job,” said Brown. “We know too many workers still work in dangerous conditions, putting their health and safety on the line every day to provide for their families. There’s not much dignity in a job where you fear for your health or your life.”
Every year, thousands of workers become sick and die from heat exposure. Between 1992 and 2017, at least 815 workers in the United States died from heat-related conditions and almost 70,000 more were seriously injured. And while heat stress is often associated with outdoor jobs, indoor workers – such as warehouse workers – are also at risk from dangerously high temperatures. The bill would direct OSHA to create a standard that includes protections like access to water, limitations on time exposed to heat, paid breaks in cool spaces, and emergency response for workers with heat-related illnesses.
Brown was joined on today’s call by Russel Smith, an Ohio bricklayer from Cleveland who is currently a field representative for the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers union.
“I know what it’s like to work in hot conditions but thanks to our collective bargaining agreements we have protections on the jobsite against the heat,” said Smith. “For those who don’t, it’s important we have a national standard that protects all workers regardless of the industry they work in and that they are protected when they speak up. Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s a worker issue too.”
Brown was also joined by Geoff Stinson, a certified occupational safety specialist for Autoneum in Oregon, Ohio which makes noise and heat protection for cars. He also serves as the president of RWDSU-UCFW Local 379 and has advocated for years to establish a heat standard for his individual plant through collective bargaining but said it’s difficult to enforce without an industry-wide standard.
“Workers need national standard heat stress protections immediately,” said Stinson. “Without a national standard, employers’ production demands and the bottom-line will always come before the health and safety of workers, but the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2021 will help get us there.”
The legislation is also supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“The U.S. economy rests on the backs of people who toil outdoors in dangerous heat,” said Manish Bapna, President and CEO of NRDC. “Thousands of workers in this country are harmed or even killed by extreme heat every year. The impacts are felt across race, ethnicity, gender, class and occupation, but Black, Latino, low-wage and essential workers are often hurt first and worst. OSHA can offer relief by speed-tracking heat protections already in development, and Congress can help by passing the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act. Workers nationwide cannot wait any longer for our leaders to take action to help keep them safe on the job.”