OSHA Should Be Protecting Workers By Implementing a Heat Standard, Not Dancing to Industry's Tune

Talk about government agencies dancing to corporations' tune!

From Mike Elk at In These Times:  "As high temperature records are broken across the United States, health and public safety advocates are calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to finally issue a rule protecting workers from extreme heat. In 1972, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended a heat standard, but OSHA has still failed to implement it. With global warming likely to make heat related deaths more common, public safety advocates say OSAH must act immediately.

“ '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' ” says Dr. Sammy Almashat, a researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “ '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.' ”

"The failure of OSHA to adopt a heat standard has left many workers unprotected. According to Public Citizen, 563 workers have died from heat-related injuries and 46,000 have suffered serious injuries in the last 20 years.

“ 'These deaths are completely preventable with just a few, inexpensive interventions, some of which have already been implemented in several states, ' ” says Dr. Thomas Bernard, who reviewed a proposed NIOSH heat standard back in 1986. “ 'The time is long overdue for a federal heat stress standard that will protect workers from dangerous heat exposure.' ”

"Almashat says it is fairly easy to implement to prevent heat deaths, noting that the Pentagon has a heat standard in place to prevent heat deaths among soldiers. Almashat also points to a 2008 study by the Washington state Department of Labor and Industries, which showed a net economic benefit for companies in terms of eliminating lost productivity by implementing heat protection rules.

" 'Employers aren't held for accountable for complying with the recommendations of this campaign. There needs to be a standard,' ” Almashat says. “ '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.' ”


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