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Watchdog group creates ‘report card’ on state-level heat protections

Photo: SEAN GLADWELL/gettyimages

Washington — Fifty million workers will have to endure “excruciating heat” in the coming months, according to a Public Citizen report that examines state efforts to protect against the hazard.

The watchdog group notes that five states have some form of a heat exposure standard: California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. However, requirements may differ. For instance, Colorado’s heat standard covers agricultural workers, and Minnesota’s applies to indoor places of employment.

Maryland OSHA, which operates as a State Plan, could issue an outdoor and indoor heat standard in the near future, the report states. California has also “made good progress” on developing an indoor heat standard. The Phoenix City Council recently passed an ordinance on heat.

In addition, state legislators have sponsored bills aimed at establishing heat protections for workers in Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia. 

“So far, none of the bills introduced in these state legislatures [has] passed,” Public Citizen says.

In contrast, Florida and Texas have passed laws that block local municipalities from addressing heat hazards. 

“Protection from occupational heat illness, injury and death is a matter of human rights and social justice,” Public Citizen says. “While some jobs are inherently dangerous, no one should be unnecessarily risking their lives or health to go to work each day. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe workspace.”

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