Federal heat standard is a great first step to protect workers in a changing climate

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) released on July 2 a proposed rule to protect workers from extreme heat. Furthermore, the Biden-Harris administration reiterated its commitment to protecting workers and communities from extreme heat, announcing new executive measures.

The rulemaking process for the federal heat standard began in October 2021. Now, that process has taken a significant step forward as the DOL formally publishes the rule, opening a public comment period before it officially takes effect. Employers nationwide will have to implement measures to safeguard their employees from heat, including but not limited to: heat hazard identification and assessment; preventive measures (i.e. rest, shade, hydration); training and education; emergency planning and response; recordkeeping and reporting and more.

La Isla Network applauds the effort of the Biden-Harris administration and the agencies of the executive branch in protecting workers from extreme heat. We also thank DOL-OSHA for recognizing both the risk that extreme heat poses to workers’ health, especially their kidneys, and La Isla Network’s effort to effectively address it abroad and in the U.S.

We recognize the federal heat standard as a significant first step in a multi-phase journey to protect workers in a changing climate.

La Isla Network CEO Jason Glaser said, “The federal heat standard is a great step but it is important to frame it as just phase one. Otherwise, the national effort to protect workers in a changing climate will face unnecessary barriers.

“For one, given the recent Supreme Court ruling that ended Chevron deference, court challenges mounted by resistant industry will have a good chance of succeeding given the business interests arrayed against regulatory efforts in general. Second, a possible Trump administration could simply leave action in the hands of employers, similar to what has been done in Texas and Florida.

“What is needed in conjunction with a federal heat standard is occupational safety and health interventions that are driven by data, physiologically effective and economically viable, demonstrating from the outset that protecting workers isn’t a burden but a competitive advantage where productivity is likely to go up.

“Government institutions like NOAA, the Department of Labor and NSF have funded programs that develop and evaluate heat stress interventions abroad. La Isla Network has led these efforts, using U.S.-government funding to do so.

“Finally, industry must be shown early on why protecting workers through occupational safety and health interventions is in their financial interest and benefit as we have clearly demonstrated abroad.”

La Isla Network has shown how targeted, data-driven occupational safety and health interventions can contribute to both the well-being of workers and companies. In Nicaragua at the San Antonio sugar mill, La Isla Network collected data to design and implement an intervention aimed at reducing occupational heat stress among sugarcane workers. As a result, we reduced hospitalizations related to occupational heat stress by 80%, increased the productivity of workers by 10% to 20%, and provided a return on investment of 22% for the mill.

La Isla Network found that a rest, shade, hydration, sanitation workplace intervention increased productivity even at lower working hours. Results from the Adelante and PREP studies at Ingenio San Antonio, Nicaragua.

In the U.S. La Isla Network has embarked on a partnership with Turner Construction and major insurers to collect data at a major worksite with partners at Indiana University Bloomington and the University of New Mexico. With data in hand, La Isla Network will assist Turner Construction in identifying and intervening on occupational heat stress in the construction sector.

The results of a pilot study in Kansas City with Turner have confirmed workers’ risk of heat-related illness, injury and death. They showed that 43% of workers experienced an internal body temperature exceeding 100.4°F, with 4% exceeding 101.3°F, even in conditions that were cooler than typical summer conditions. For reference, in order to keep workers healthy, their temperature must remain below 100.4°F.

Once again, La Isla Network congratulates the Biden-Harris administration for taking this huge first step forward. La Isla Network reiterates that it and its partners are ready to protect workers in a changing climate here in the United States.

Thank you for reading. La Isla Network protects workers in a changing climate. We generate and implement data-driven worker protection and management assessment protocols to improve the resiliency of workforces and businesses to heat stress. For more information please contact in**@la***********.org.

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