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article imageBill introduced in Congress to have OSHA develop heat standard

By Karen Graham     Jul 11, 2019 in Politics
A House of Representatives bill introduced Wednesday - would direct the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt a standard to prevent occupational exposure to excessive heat in both indoor and outdoor environments.
The Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, spearheaded by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), directs OSHA to establish the first-ever federal safeguard specific to the health risks of heat.
The legislation is named for a 53-year-old farm worker who died in July 2004. He collapsed from heatstroke after working a 10-hour day picking grapes in the 100-degree sun. No ambulance responded because employees were unable to provide the vineyard's location. Asuncion died in the car as his son tried frantically to reach a hospital.
The issue of heat-related injuries and illnesses has special relevance in Arizona, where triple-digit heat is a regular occurrence, especially as temperatures are expected to keep rising with the climate crisis, says Grijalva. "Soaring temperatures already plague Arizona’s workforce, and conditions will only worsen as climate change contributes to more extreme heat conditions," he said in a statement.
France has activated a heatwave plan to care for those most vulnerable to the intense heat
France has activated a heatwave plan to care for those most vulnerable to the intense heat
“By putting an OSHA standard on the books, we can better protect our family members, friends, and neighbors who work in high-risk environments and limit their exposure to dangerous heat conditions.”
Thursday Congressional Hearing
A hearing was conducted on the bill Thursday, with opponents of the legislation pointing out that OSHA already conducts a heat stress illness prevention campaign and can cite employers under the general duty clause so a new federal standard and law is “unnecessary and unworkable and impractical," said Kevin Cannon, senior director of safety and health services for Arlington, Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America, according to Business Insurance.
The Korean peninsula has been gripped by a scorching heatwave  with dozens of deaths in the South bl...
The Korean peninsula has been gripped by a scorching heatwave, with dozens of deaths in the South blamed on soaring temperatures
Jung Yeon-je, AFP
But Dr. Ronda McCarthy, Waco, Texas-based national medical director of medical surveillance services for health care company Concentra, said she has “unsuccessfully implored plant health and safety managers to implement simple measures such as worker training, hydration, rest breaks and access to shade and cooling to avoid costly and perilous accidents, injuries and illnesses from excessive heat exposure.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, an estimated 70,000 workers in the United States were sickened by heat between 1992 and 2017 and another 815 died.
The whole point, looking forward is that we have to become proactive in how we will adapt to our changing climate and show how we can be resilient. We can let it go, and not get overly excited until more construction workers, farm workers, and others doing outdoor jobs start dropping from heat illnesses, or even worse, die.
Children cool off at a water park on June 27  2016  east of downtown Los Angeles  California  where ...
Children cool off at a water park on June 27, 2016, east of downtown Los Angeles, California, where a hot dry heatwave continues to grip southern California
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/File
But it won't take much to fix the problem, either. The legislation and similar federal and state safeguards will become ever-more critical as our climate gets hotter and more extreme, and American workers put their health on the line just by showing up to work every day.
As Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on disaster risk reduction said in an interview with The Guardian, This is not about the future, this is about today. We talk about a climate emergency and a climate crisis, but if we cannot confront this issue of adapting, we will not survive,” she added. “People need to talk more about adaptation and resilience.”
More about Osha, Heat injury, New legislation, Climate crisis, extreme heat
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