Rep. Chu Introduces Heat Stress Bill to Protect Workers
Washington, DC — Workers who labor in hot conditions, risking illness or death from heat stress, will receive required water, shade, and rest periods under a new bill introduced today by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27). The legislation, the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, named for a worker who died a preventable death from heat stroke after working for 10 hours straight in 105-degree temperatures, builds on legislation that Rep. Chu introduced as a member of the California Assembly that made California that first state in the nation to require paid shade and water breaks for those who work outside. Currently, there is no similar federal standard. Under this bill, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be required, for the first time ever, to establish a federal requirement that workers in high heat environments - whether indoors or outdoors - have paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, and limitations on how long they can be exposed to heat. It will also direct employers to provide training for their employees on the risk factors that can lead to heat illness, and guidance on the proper procedures for responding to symptoms. Rep. Chu issued the following statement:
“Every day, workers around the country, whether on a farm or in a warehouse, work in 100 degree temperatures or more just to feed their own families and the country. But that exposure to high heat puts workers at risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Even in just a single eight to ten hour shift, a worker can fall into a coma and die. According to a 2015 study by OSHA, exposure to heat led to 37 work-related deaths and 2,830 nonfatal occupation injuries and illnesses. And it’s only expected to get worse. A new report released last week found that rising temperatures from global warming could cost the global economy as much as $69 trillion by 2100, thanks in part to the impact on workers’ health.
“And yet, OSHA does not have a federal standard that requires the breaks, shade, or water that we know can save lives. Heat stress-related deaths are 100% preventable, which is what makes stories like that of Asuncion Validivia, who died after working ten hours in 105 degree weather without a break, so tragic. Nobody else should suffer a similar fate when all it takes to save them is a break. My bill will, for the first time ever, establish a federal requirement that workers in high heat environments have paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, and limitations on how long they can be exposed to heat. Thanks to legislation I introduced when I was in the State Assembly, California already follows many of these requirements, and we have seen the positive impact on workers’ health and productivity. Extending those protections to all workers should be common sense. Passage of this bill will ensure that all workers benefit from safe conditions whenever they work in excessive heat environments, no matter where they live.”
On Thursday, July 11, the Education and Labor Workforce Protections Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Fatality Prevention Act.