Heat has killed hundreds of workers in the U.S., many in construction or agriculture, an investigation by NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations found. Federal standards might have prevented them.
About the Project
“Deadly Heat” is a data-driven investigation that involved analysis of hundreds of federal and state records and data sets and scores of interviews. Partners in the project included:
- Columbia Journalism Investigations, an investigative reporting unit at the Columbia Journalism School in New York.
- National Public Radio.
- The California Newsroom and The Texas Newsroom, two public radio collaboratives that included KPCC, LAist, KERA and Houston Public Media.
- Public Health Watch, an independent nonprofit news organization.
The project was supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
Without a legal standard setting out what must be done to prevent heat deaths, workplace regulators have a hard time making violations stick.
California is seen as a nationwide leader in hot weather protections, but its workers are still getting sick and dying from heat. Experts and insiders say climate change and a dysfunctional Cal/OSHA are to blame.
Over the last year and a half, almost four dozen Cal Fire firefighters have suffered from heat illness during training, and since 2003 five have died.
As Nation Gets Hotter, Efforts to Prevent Worker Heat Deaths Accelerate, But Fixes Aren’t as Simple as They Seem
The weapons against heat illness on the job are seemingly simple, from more water to rest breaks. But standards, enforcement and training are often lacking to ensure protection.
The Biden administration is pushing for new worker protections after record-setting temperatures across the country left dozens of workers injured and dead this summer.
Radio Reports From The Texas Newsroom
Karl Simmons’ Story, Part 1
Karl Simmons’ Story, Part 2
Bruno Martinez’s Story
Why Companies Are Not Held Accountable
Glenn White’s Story
Heat Deaths: What Happens Next?
Heat Safety on the Job
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have a heat standard to enforce, but does make the following recommendations to employers in high-risk industries:
- Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes.
- Make sure workers take frequent rest breaks in the shade.
- Create an emergency plan to follow if a worker shows signs of heat-related illness.
- Train workers about the dangers of heat.
- Let workers acclimatize, or build up a tolerance, to the heat.
Find more resources at: www.osha.gov/heat-exposure and www.migrantclinician.org/issues/heat.