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Groups seek federal heat standard from OSHA

Workers employed in New Jersey might be interested in petitions filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeking standards for dealing with heat stress. Along with a report published by Public Citizen, petitions have been filed with OSHA by 130 groups in an effort to move the agency to establish excessive heat rules for U.S. workplaces. Any such rules would represent the first federal standard aimed at protecting outdoor and indoor workers from exposure to excessive heat in the workplace.

In its report, Public Citizen examines federal data and says that excessive heat on the job caused the deaths of 783 workers in the U.S. between 1992 and 2016. During that same period, according to Public Citizen, 69,374 workers were seriously injured as a result of heat stress.

The petition and report suggest that an OSHA federal heat standard should make more frequent rest breaks mandatory where workers are exerting themselves significantly in extreme heat. Workers should also be provided with access to a shaded, cool environment during breaks, be provided with protective gear like water-cooled garments, be notified of known heat stress dangers and be trained on the risks of heat stress as well as the measures that can be taken to prevent it. The petition and report also suggests employers should be required to monitor employees who are at-risk for heat stress, provide adequate hydration and develop plans to allow workers to adjust to hot work environments.

People who suffer injuries or illnesses due to heat stress at work might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. They might want to have a lawyer’s assistance when preparing and submitting the required claim documentation.