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Federal lawmakers looking to protect workers from extreme heat

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- The U.S. agency that sets workplace safety standards is under growing pressure to issue a federal rule that would protect workers from dangerously high temperatures.

On July 26, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) cosponsored a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate to increase federal protection for workers in “high-heat” conditions.

The Auncion Valdivia Heat Illness, Injury, and Fatality Prevention Act was named for a grape farm worker in California who died in 2004 after picking grapes for 10 hours in 105-degree heat.

It would require the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop federal safety standards for workers in both indoor and outdoor environments.

According to a report by 'Public Citizen,' a consumer rights advocacy group:

  • Environmental heat is likely responsible for 170,000 work-related injuries every year, and possibly many more.
  • Heat exposure is responsible for 600 to 2,000 worker fatalities, annually, ranking it among the top three causes – and possibly the top cause – of occupational fatalities.
  • Farm workers – the vast majority of whom are immigrants, many undocumented – are the most vulnerable to heat-related injury and death.

If passed by Congress, the bill would require workers be given breaks while in high-heat settings, access to water and emergency response if suffering heat-related illness.

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Leloba Seitshiro

Leloba Seitshiro reports on ABC-7 at 5 and 6 p.m. weekdays.


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