House committee advances bill aimed at protecting workers from heat illness

Washington — The House Education and Labor Committee on July 27 approved the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2021, with a 27-19 vote.

H.R. 2193, sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), would direct OSHA to develop a workplace heat standard within two years of its passage. The legislation includes provisions concerning training and education on prevention and response to heat illness, along with whistleblower protections.

The bill is named in honor of a 53-year-old worker who died in 2004 on a California farm after 10 hours of picking grapes in temperatures as high as 105° F.

Excessive heat is one of the most common and dangerous workplace hazards,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the committee, said during his opening statement. “Yet, half a century after OSHA was established, we still have no federal standard that protects workers against heat illnesses and fatalities. Without this basic protection, hundreds of workers in fields, factories, warehouses, construction sites, and other workplaces continue to suffer needless and preventable deaths, illnesses and injuries.”

 

OSHA is working on a standard that addresses heat illness in outdoor and indoor settings, and published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in October. In addition, the agency in April launched a National Emphasis Program aimed at protecting workers from outdoor and indoor heat exposure.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a companion bill in the Senate in April 2021. S. 1068 has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA), opposes the House bill. “This top-down mandate from Washington disregards the fact that our country is made up of multiple regions, all with varying climates,” Keller said. “Committee Republicans understand the dangers of extreme heat exposure to workers. However, one-size-fits-all standards are not the answer to address a complex hazard.”

The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.

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