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Reintroduced bill aimed at fast-tracking worker heat protections


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr

Washington — Legislation that would direct OSHA to establish – “on a much faster track” – a permanent federal standard that protects indoor and outdoor workers from excessive heat is back before Congress.

Reintroduced in both the House and Senate on July 26, the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness, Injury and Fatality Prevention Act would require OSHA to issue an interim final rule no later than one year after the legislation’s enactment date. The bill includes provisions concerning training and education on prevention and response to heat illness, along with whistleblower protections.

Initially introduced in March 2021 and reintroduced last year, the legislation is named for a 53-year-old worker who died in 2004 on a California farm after 10 hours of picking grapes in temperatures as high as 105° F.

Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Alma Adams (D-NC) reintroduced the bill in the House. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) reintroduced the Senate version.

The lawmakers cite OSHA data showing that 121 worker deaths from 2017 to 2021 were officially caused by excessive heat.

“Workers in this country still have no legal protection against excessive heat,” Scott, ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a press release. “Heat illness affects workers in the nation’s fields, warehouses and factories, and climate change is making the problem more severe every year.”

Brown adds: “No worker should have to endure life-threatening heat to provide for their family. We know too many workers still work in dangerous conditions, putting their health and safety on the line every day.”

The legislation is supported by numerous labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, United Farm Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and United Auto Workers.

OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on Oct. 27, 2021. The agency’s National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health formed a work group on heat injury and illness soon after. On May 31, the work group presented a report and formal recommendations for a possible final rule to NACOSH, which accepted a motion to forward them to OSHA, along with a sample exposure control plan/heat illness prevention plan.

An OSHA spokesperson on June 22 told Safety+Health the agency recently initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel review, the next step before a proposed standard is published.

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