Padilla Holds Press Conference to Push for Federal Heat Stress Protections in the Workplace

Padilla calls for implementation of federal worker protections to address heat stress in the workplace

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the world faces an unprecedented global heat wave impacting vast portions of the northern hemisphere, and as over 100 million Americans face active heat alerts, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) today joined Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.), the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), union representatives, and workers in hosting a press conference to advocate for federal workplace heat stress protections. Rising temperatures in California and across the country are increasingly dangerous for workers. Lawmakers, workers, and union and environmental leaders gave firsthand accounts of working in hot conditions and called for swift legislative action to speed up the implementation of the first federal heat stress standards in the workplace.

“The climate crisis has accelerated the dangers of extreme heat, especially in California where we’re also suffering from record droughts and dangerous wildfires,” said Senator Padilla. “Yet, our country has never passed a federal standard to protect workers from these increasingly hazardous conditions. OSHA must act on this problem with the urgency that workers deserve. We simply can’t afford to wait.”

The lawmakers and labor representatives discussed the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, which Padilla co-led in the Senate and Chu sponsored in the House, to protect the safety and health of workers who are exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace. The bill is named in honor of Asunción Valdivia, a California farm worker who died in 2004 after picking grapes for ten hours straight in 105-degree temperatures.

Workers need better protections from excessive heat, the deadliest form of extreme weather in the United States. Experts in the Nixon administration first recommended occupational heat standards back in 1972. The nation has only gotten hotter since then. A New York Times analysis found that extreme heat caused nearly 4,000 deaths in California alone over the last decade, which is six times higher than the official count of heat related fatalities. The top six warmest years in the United States have occurred since 2012 and the average heat wave season now lasts nearly 70 days a year, three times longer than in the 1960s.

Senator Padilla has been a leading voice in pushing to expedite worker protections against heat stress. Last October, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began implementing Padilla’s plan to protect workers from heat hazards, publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings with provisions based on the senator’s legislation.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued notice it is working on a federal heat stress standard for workers. But the agency takes an average of more than seven years to finalize new standards. The legislation would push for faster action by OSHA.

Click here to download video of the press event.


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