Page 16 - OHS, March 2021
P. 16

High temperatures are not the sole reason that heat illnesses occur in workers—there are more factors at play that create the perfect storm for heat stress.
conditions that could lead to their body temperature rising more quickly than others, leaving them more vulnerable to heat illnesses. Heat-friendly PPE. Because of the hindrance some PPE can have on keeping a cool enough body temperature while working, it is suggested that workers use what are called auxiliary cooling systems, or personal cooling systems to help keep body heat low. Examples of such equipment are cooling vests, wetted garments
and water-cooled and air-cooled garments.
Current Legislation for
Heat Stress Standards
The absence of federal regulations to protect workers from heat exposure does not mean that such legislation is not in the works. California Representative Judy Chu and Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva introduced the Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Fatality Prevention Act on July 10, 2019.13 This bill would require OSHA to develop a heat illness standard.
The bill is named after Asuncion Valdivia, a man who died in 2004 after picking grapes for 10 consecutive hours in extreme temperatures. As it is currently written, the bill states that workers in environments of high heat should be required to have paid breaks in cool areas, access to water, limitations on how long they can be exposed to heat and proper emergency response for workers who are experiencing heat illness. If the bill is passed, OSHA will have two years to write and propose a heat illness standard for both indoor and outdoor workers.
“I’m confident that if we bring this bill to the floor for a vote, all workers will benefit from safe conditions whenever they work in excessive heat environments, no matter where they live,” said Rep. Chu when the bill was introduced.
What would an OSHA heat standard look like? OSHA has a wealth of information and resources on heat stress and how to prevent it, so compiling the foundations of that information, along with the proposed requirements detailed in the Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, would create a more than adequate official heat stress standard. Particular tenets of the Act that OSHA is missing and would need to include are the mandatory paid breaks in cool areas and limitations on the length of time workers can be exposed to heat. If passed, it will be very important for OSHA to enforce these standards, especially given the severity of heat illness on the job and how common of an occurrence it is.
When can we expect a heat standard? There is no official 12 Occupational Health & Safety | MARCH 2021
update on the progress of the bill, so any time frame for a mandated heat stress standard from OSHA is uncertain. However, the quick turnaround of Maryland House Bill 722, which required the state’s OSHA to pass regulations for workers and heat stress, could be an indication that the Asuncion Act will be passed into law within the next year.14 It should be considered that although the Maryland House Bill was introduced on January 30, 2020 and enacted into law on May 8, 2020, it was a bill that is state specific, not federal.
Another indicator of the status of the Asuncion Act is the involvement of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who features the Act platform on her official website.
“America has a serious and deadly problem of workers laboring in hot conditions without even the most basic protections such as rest breaks and access to water. These dangers are exacerbated right now as workers also face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and smoke from widespread wildfires,” said Senator Harris.
Harris’s attachment and sponsorship of the Act could help to make it a priority in Congress, leading it to be ratified sooner rather than later, though that is mere speculation.
Regardless of when the Act becomes a law, OSHA will be given two years from the date to come up with a standard and start actively applying it.
As global warming continues to cause new record-breaking high temperatures each year, it has become even more important to protect workers from the heat. An enforced heat stress standard from OSHA, along with following appropriate measures while at work, is a step in the right direction.
Nikki Johnson-Bolden is an Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.
1. Preventing-HeatRelated-Hazards-as-Temperatures-Rise.aspx
3. in-unsafe-working-conditions-for-agricultural-workers.aspx?admgarea=ht. HeatStressQuenchers
4. illness%20can%20be,%2C%20including%20heat%2Drelated%20hazards
8. 9.
10. 11.
13. Introduce-Bill-Pushing-OSHA-to-Protect-Workers-Against-Heat-Stress. aspx?m=1&Page=1
14. aihasupport-bill-protecting-workers-from-heat-stress.aspx

   14   15   16   17   18