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Workers to Be Protected from Heat Stress Under New Department of Labor Rules Modeled After Rep. Chu Legislation

September 20, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, the Department of Labor announced a new initiative to protect workers from the risk of heat stress. Due to climate change, more workers, both indoors and outdoors, are subject to dangerously high temperatures, including in parts of the country where heat stress has not typically been a problem and therefore not something many employers are prepared for. As a result, hundreds have died and thousands injured in recent years. That is why Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced H.R. 2193, the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatalities Prevent Act to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish an enforceable federal standard to protect workers. The Department of Labor initiative will begin this process by:

  1. Noticing a new rule-making process for indoor/outdoor heat standards for workers, a first step in creating a federal heat standard
  2. Immediately implementing unannounced inspections of workplaces when the heat goes over 80 degrees
  3. Creating a National Emphasis Program on heat, which will identify certain industries at high risk for heat issues and develop strategies for them
  4. Establish a Heat Work Group within the National Advisory Board on Labor

“The threat of climate change has created new dangers for workers everywhere, from farms to warehouses to delivery trucks, all of which have seen workers injured or worse because of a lack of basic heat stress protections,” said Rep. Chu. “This is not just in hot places like Southern California. More and more parts of the country are experiencing record high temperatures that threaten worker safety. But we can help. Saving a worker’s life can be as simple as requiring breaks for shade and water. But we know that too many employers do not protect their workers unless required to, even when failing to keep workers safe costs the business in lost time. That is why I introduced the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatalities Prevention Act. Named for Asuncion Valdivia, a farmworker who needlessly died after working too long in high temperatures without a rest or water break, this bill would require OSHA to implement rules to protect workers from heat stress, which is exactly what the Biden Administration has done today. This new process is historic and will unquestionably mean fewer worker deaths while improving productivity. I know because I have seen it work in California, where I introduced the country’s first worker protections from heat stress. Since then, you can see the impact in things like the ubiquitous shade tents along farms, as well as improved productivity. I will continue to fight for Congress to pass a comprehensive federal standard, but today I’m grateful to the Biden Administration and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh for responding to our repeated calls for action by beginning this process to protect workers from heat stress.”