New Bills Expected Today on Federal Heat Protections for Workers
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., is expected to reintroduce two bills as soon as today to protect workers from excessive heat.
The first is the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, named after a Central Valley farmworker who died after working 10 hours in 105-degree heat.
Antonio De Loera-Brust, communications director for the United Farm Workers, said the bill would establish a federal standard on access to shade, water and paid breaks.
"It's nothing radical," De Loera-Brust contended. "This is just the bare basic necessities for survival, that any human being doing physically strenuous activity in these sorts of deadly temperatures would need to survive."
Opponents argued the proposed federal rules would be too costly for the agricultural industry. California passed its own rules to protect workers from heat exhaustion in 2015. By contrast, in June Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill eliminating local ordinances requiring water breaks.
This week, 112 members of Congress wrote to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to urge the agency to implement a federal workplace heat standard.
De Loera-Brust stressed OSHA needs to step up.
"Your ability to survive your day at work, your ability to come home to your family after working in the field should not be dependent on whether you live in a red state or a blue state," De Loera-Brust asserted. "Your access to water, your access to shade, your access to a paid break should not be up to your governor."
A second bill, known as the HEAT Act, would require the federal government to establish a program to improve extreme heat preparedness, planning and response.
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