Groups Call For Better Protections For Workers In Extreme Heat

A coalition of advocacy and labor groups have sent a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They’re calling for specific standards to protect construction, farm and other outdoor laborers from extreme heat. Right now there are no specific protections in place.  

Over 130 organizations and individuals, including former OSHA officials and the United Farmworkers Union, have signed onto the petition. Adrian Shelley is with Public Citizen, the group that spearheaded the campaign.

“Climate change is making temperatures worse across the nation. Our workforce is exposed to more hazardous days and will continue to be exposed to more very hot days. This needs to be a priority for OSHA,” he said.

The petition calls for protections ranging from adequate access to water and shade to medical monitoring of at-risk employees.

“Last year there were thousands of workplace injuries due to heat exposure and occasionally there are fatalities,” Shelley said.

He said this could be especially critical in the Mountain West, as our population and workforce grows and temperatures continue to spike. Officials at OSHA responded saying they are aware of the issue and it's under review.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.