Extreme temperatures–both hot and cold–can be incredibly dangerous for employees who work in the outdoors. There are often devastating consequences, particularly if workers are exposed to extreme heat without proper attire, hydration or rest. Most of the time, those consequences involve tragic fatalities.
There are new federal bills seeking to put an end to these preventable workplace deaths and illnesses.
Employees who work outdoors already have some protections
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) already has some regulations to protect those who work in the summer heat. The Maryland Department of Labor also maintains similar regulations that advise workers to:
- Take regular breaks in cool places
- Stay hydrated throughout the workday
- Stay alert for signs of heat illness
These simple efforts can help prevent workers from suffering dangerous heat illnesses on the job. However, worker fatalities and illnesses related to heat have only increased over the years.
Laws proposed to help workers in extreme weather
National lawmakers recently introduced new bills to create heat stress standards for all workplaces that require workers to be outdoors for long periods. While the article and both of the incidents originated in California, the resulting bills could have a national impact on all workers, including here in Maryland.
An incident where a California worker died after working for 10 hours in 105-degree heat inspired the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Act. This bill would require OSHA to create standards and plans that would include:
- Paid breaks for employees to rest on hot days
- Training for maintaining health in heat
- Plans for medical emergencies
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin also co-sponsored a bill called the Peggy Frank Memorial Act. Frank was a mail delivery worker who died of hyperthermia in extreme heat. This bill would require all Postal Service delivery trucks–and potentially other delivery trucks–to install air conditioning systems.
If they pass, these two bills could help keep workers safer in extreme temperatures. And as our summers seem to grow hotter each year, these safety measures and protections are more important than ever.