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Padilla: My Heat Stress Legislation Will Protect Farm Workers

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On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif) was in Los Angeles and spoke about creating Federal Heat Safety Standards to protect workers from the heat throughout the nation.

Padilla was Wednesday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”.

Padilla, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act “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. Mr. Valdivia fell unconscious and instead of calling an ambulance, his employer told Mr. Valdivia’s son to drive his father home. On his way home, he died of heat stroke at the age of 53. Mr. Valdivia’s death was completely preventable, yet his story is not unique.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are also cosponsoring the legislation, while Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representative with Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Alma Adams (D-N.C.).

“Workers in California and across the country are too often exposed to dangerous heat conditions in the workplace. In the past year, Californians have faced extreme heat temperatures from wildfires, while trying to navigate the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic – risking the health and safety of our workers,” said Senator Padilla. “This vital legislation will hold employers accountable and ensure workplace protections are put in place to prevent further heat stress illnesses and deaths from happening.”

Heat-related illnesses can cause heat cramps, organ damage, heat exhaustion, stroke, and even death. Between 1992 and 2017, heat stress injuries killed 815 U.S. workers and seriously injured more than 70,000. Climate change is making the problem worse. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last seven years have been the hottest on record. Farmworkers and construction workers suffer the highest incidence of heat illness. And no matter what the weather is outside, workers in factories, commercial kitchens, and other workplaces, including ones where workers must wear personal protective equipment (PPE), can face dangerously high heat conditions all year round.

The Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act will protect workers against occupational exposure to excessive heat by:

Requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish an enforceable standard to protect workers in high-heat environments with measures like paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water, limitations on time exposed to heat, and emergency response for workers with heat-related illness; and Directing employers to provide training for their employees on the risk factors that can lead to heat illness, and guidance on the proper procedures for responding to symptoms.

The Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act has the support of a broad coalition of groups including: United Farm Workers of America, United Farm Worker Foundation, Public Citizen, Farmworker Justice, AFL-CIO, American Public Health Association, Earthjustice, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Migrant Clinicians Network, Migrant Legal Action Program, National Employment Law Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, SEIU, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, UNITE HERE!, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, and Workers Defense Project, United Steelworkers (USW), Communication Workers of America, and the United Auto Workers.

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.