OSHA Does not Think That Heat is a Health Concern
The United States is in the midst of another heat wave. All across the nation seasonal high are being broken almost daily. Public health and safety advocates are pleading with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to finally issue a rule protecting workers from extreme heat. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended a heat standard in 1972 but OSHA has yet to implement it. Does that mean that workers dying of heat strokes is not a concern?
- Death of workers from heat related causes is on the rise.
- OSHA will not issue a ruling that forces employers to implement a heat standard for their employees.
- Placating the Political Action Groups.
- A petition is circulating.
- Doctor Sammy Almashat's recommendations.
- What can you do to help?
Death of workers from heat related causes is on the rise.
According to Public Citizen, a National Consumer Advocacy Group with headquarters in Washington D.C., 563 farm and construction workers have died over the last 20 years and another 46, 000 have suffered serious injuries precipitated by the heat. Doctor Thomas Bernard, who reviewed a proposed NIOSH heat standard back in 1986 told a reporter that, “These deaths are completely preventable with just a few, inexpensive interventions, some of which have already been implemented in several states. The time is long overdue for a federal heat stress standard that will protect workers from dangerous heat exposure.” Failure to act on OSHA's part leaves farm workers, construction workers, and other outdoor workers unprotected. Failure to implement a heat standard by OSHA borders on the criminal negligent.
OSHA will not issue a ruling that forces employers to implement a heat standard for their employees.
Why not? They fine employers for making their employees work under other unsafe conditions. What is the difference between an employee dying of a heat stroke or some other medical condition brought on by the heat, or an employee dying from a fall because his employer did not supply him or her with the proper safety harness? None! Absolutely none!
Placating the Political Action Groups.
They, OSHA, are engaging in a stalling action. While OSHA is not issuing a rule to force employers to adopt a heat standard it has launched an education and outreach campaign to inform employers of the dangers of extreme heat. What good is that if the employers will not be forced to abide by it. I think that Dr. Sammy Almashat, a researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group explains it best. “Employers aren't held accountable for complying with the recommendations of this campaign. There needs to be a standard. The federal government isn’t dragging its feet because it’s not feasible or the science isn't there. This is a case where they are deliberately dragging their feet on a standard in order to placate industry.”
A petition is circulating.
In a response to a petition launched by Public Citizen, United Electrical Workers, and Farm-worker Justice calling on OSHA to implement an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for extreme heat, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels wrote that “OSHA agrees exposure to extreme heat can lead to death; however workers with adverse health effects from heat exposure experience dehydration, cramps, and exhaustion, and other affects and are able to recover fairly quickly when the appropriate measures are taken.” take note of the words “able to recover fairly quickly when the appropriate measures are taken.”
Doctor Sammy Almashat's recommendations.
Let the doctor explain it in his own words. “Some farm workers and construction workers work for hours on end and there are no accommodations for rest breaks. This is what commonly leads to heat deaths. We are asking for rest breaks in proportion to the temperature outside as well as employers being required to provide workers with a certain amount of water every hour. This does not require some sort of a technological breakthrough. It’s very easy and inexpensive.”