Did you know that in 2019, 43 workers died from exposure to extreme heat? That at least 2,400 others suffered serious heat-related injuries and illnesses? That these injuries were actually underreported?
Due to climate change, extreme weather will likely continue, and the heat-related injuries will only get worse. That’s why the Biden administration has launched a program to help prevent more deaths and injuries due to heat.
For AFGE, this means protecting members who work outdoors for the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management, and indoors, such as laundry workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and warehouse workers at the Department of Defense facilities, among others.
This month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is starting the rulemaking process to develop a standard to protect workers from hazards of extreme heat, both indoors and outdoors.
As part of this process, OSHA is planning to make the following changes:
- OSHA inspectors will prioritize heat-related complaints and initiate an onsite investigation where possible.
- Inspectors will also intervene when they go to a worksite and witness employees working in hot conditions.
- They will also expand the scope of inspections to include heat-related hazards if they are present.
- The agency will target high-risk industries and focus agency resources on heat inspections.
“These efforts will focus much needed attention on preventable heat-related illness and fatalities as heat exposure has become more of a hazard due to the intensity of recent heat waves. It’s great to see OSHA making good use of the tools available to protect working people,” said AFGE Health and Safety Specialist Milly Rodriguez, who also chairs the Safety and Health Codes Board in Virginia, which, along with Maryland, has started the process of developing a heat-related hazard standard for businesses to follow.