FWAF statement on the announcement of federal actions on heat stress protection for workers

The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) applauds the decision, announced on September 20th by the Biden Administration to finally take steps to address the harmful, even deadly, effects of heat exposure and heat stress on farmworkers and other outdoor workers.

After one of the hottest summers on record, with extreme heat events and unprecedented heat waves during which people perished from exposure to some of the hottest temperatures on record, the White House has directed OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to begin the process of developing a federal workplace heat standard. This comes none too soon! No more workers in this country should risk their health and their lives because they do not have workplace standards to protect themselves from the effects of climate change on increasingly rising temperatures.

Partner in heat stress research

Over the last decade, FWAF has recognized the effects of heat exposure on farmworkers and has been advocating at the state and national level for common sense, yet vital, workplace protections – water, shade, rest breaks, training. For more than ten years, FWAF has engaged in community-based research in partnership with Emory University to study the effects of heat exposure on women’s reproductive health and on acute and chronic kidney injury of farmworkers due to heat exposure and dehydration. Every increasingly hot year that goes by, every day without workplace protections that goes by, means more people and their families are put in harm’s way, just for doing the work that is crucial to all our lives and to our national economy.

What is in the new White House plan?

The Administration’s new plan includes the call for interagency collaboration; emphasis on a program for heat inspections for target industries, including agriculture; in addition to employer education, heat illness reporting, enforcement measures, and addressing the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable and marginalized workers. Home energy assistance and cooling stations in local communities is, also, included. This is the year. 2021 has raised the flag of the rampant environmental injustices in BIPOC communities around the country, and the White House has made a commitment to confront the environmental injustices faced by hundreds of communities around the country. Heat exposure and the deleterious effects of climate change on human health demands urgent action. Not one more worker should die because our worker and health protective agencies have failed to protect them!

While we applaud the Administration’s action, we are determined to see that they fulfill this commitment. We remain vigilant, and we will not back down until all workers have heat stress rights and protections.

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