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Attorneys general re-issue call for OSHA emergency standard on heat


Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr

Washington — A coalition of attorneys general is re-petitioning OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard aimed at protecting workers from heat exposure.

The attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania originally sent a petition to OSHA in February 2023 calling for an ETS. That petition was denied in April.

The new petition – submitted Feb. 9 to acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and OSHA administrator Doug Parker – now also includes the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine and the District of Columbia. Not included, however, is the attorney general of California.

Among the impetus for the ETS, the group writes, is “climate scientists predict that summer 2024 will be even hotter (than 2023), exposing farmworkers and construction workers to dangerous levels of heat and humidity that can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, and even death.”

The petition states that OSHA’s outreach and enforcement efforts – “while significant” – haven’t proved sufficient to protect workers. The attorneys general also contend that OSHA can’t rely on states to protect workers. 

They point out that although states such as California, Oregon and Washington have issued heat standards, “some of the most heat vulnerable states are unlikely to implement heat standards on their own.

“At least two states – Texas and Florida, which experience some of the hottest temperatures in the United States – are seeking to preempt local governments’ ability to pass worker protection standards.

“In addition, while there have been some efforts to implement occupational heat standards at the state and local levels, those efforts have largely been blocked or weakened following opposition from lobbying interests. An emergency temporary standard would immediately address the inconsistencies across the states by providing a uniform enforceable standard.”

Since 1983, OSHA has issued two ETSs – both related to COVID-19. One of those, related to vaccination and testing, was stayed by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision in January 2022.

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