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NY state legislation would help protect workers from heat and cold

Photo: by-studio/iStockphoto

Albany, NY — Recently introduced legislation in New York is aimed at protecting workers from extreme temperatures in both indoor and outdoor work settings.

Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) and Assemblymember Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx) say the Temperature Extreme Mitigation Program (T.E.M.P.) Act – S. 1604 and A. 3321 – would establish a workplace standard on heat and cold that covers workers in agriculture, construction, landscaping, and delivery and food service. It also would apply to work vehicles. 

Although California, Minnesota and Washington state have heat-related standards, Ramos notes in a Feb. 10 press release that the New York bills are the first seeking to protect workers from both cold and heat stress.

Citing estimates from the New York City mayor’s office, the release states that 450 heat-related ER visits are recorded each year, along with 150 heat-related hospital admissions, 10 heatstroke deaths and 350 “heat-exacerbated” deaths. Meanwhile, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 50 people in New York state were injured as a result of environmental cold exposure in 2018, all of which involved 31 or more days of missed work.

The companion bills map out heat-stress accommodations, such as providing workers access to water and areas of shade to rest in when the temperature is 80° F or higher. Cold-stress accommodations include designating warming and rest locations when temperatures are 60° F or lower. Other employer requirements: medical monitoring of workers, proper personal protective equipment, and training on cold stress and heat illness.

For workers who spend more than 60 minutes a day in a vehicle or whose worksite is considered a vehicle, the bills call for those vehicles to have adequate air conditioning.

“Workers are a frontline climate community, and our labor protections must reflect the danger they face on the job,” Ramos said. “We saw it in Buffalo during last December’s blizzard, and we saw it last summer as workers pushed through an unbearable summer.”

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