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Amid New York Heat Wave, New OSHA Heat Standard Could Better Protect Workers

The summer of 2019 is shaping up to be a “hot one” of record proportions. Apart from a heat wave in Europe that’s breaking all-time records, the East Coast is also facing sweltering temperatures and significant heat-related setbacks. That includes a recent power outage which left thousands of NYC residents in the dark, as well as five heat-related deaths reported in recent days across the region.

As officials and experts collaborate on ways to improve infrastructure and respond to issues created by high temperatures, some lawmakers advocating for better standards to protect workers who may be subject to heat in the course of their work-related duties. That’s the premise behind a recently introduced bill that would implement a nationwide OSHA heat standard.

About the Proposed OSHA Heat Standard

H.R. 3668 – the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2019 – was introduced by California rep. Judy Chu in honor of a California farmworker who died in 2014 from heatstroke after working in 100+ degree temperatures for 10 hours. If passed, the bill would create a standard for heat-related injuries and illnesses, and provide better protections for workers.

OSHA currently provides employer guidance on worker safety during high-heat workdays, and requires employers to provide adequate shade, rest, and water, as well as time for new workers to build tolerance to working in high temperatures. The proposed measure, however, looks to create a national standard for protecting all qualifying U.S. workers, much of which would be based on California’s Heat Illness Prevention standard.

Although it is still subject to amendment, the bill would take a number of steps to protect workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses. For example, the measures aims to:

  • Establish national limits for worker heat exposure;
  • Implement employer monitoring requirements;
  • Take NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) criteria into consideration; and
  • Enact other mandates designed to keep workers safe from heat-related risks, including requirements that employers provide enough water so that each employee can drink one quart per hour.

The Dangers of Working in the Heat

As noted by the bill’s author, excessive heat is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and lightning combined. What’s more, workers who perform job duties in the heat are more likely to experience reduced mental and physical performance – a drawback that not only makes them more likely to be involved in a variety of workplace accidents – from construction accidents to work-related motor vehicle collisions – but also results in higher workers’ compensation costs and decreased productivity and income for bother employees and employers.

As a law firm that’s advocated for injured workers and families across New York City since 1983, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. would like to stress the importance of staying safe when working in high temperatures. That means drinking enough water, taking sufficient breaks, and avoiding over-exertion by pacing yourself. For those who suffer preventable harm on the job, our attorneys are available to review your case and discuss your rights and options for seeking needed compensation.

You can find more information about heat-related injury risks and warm weather work safety tips on our blog. If you have a potential case you’d like to discuss with an experienced workplace and construction accident attorney, contact us 24/7 for a free consultation.


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