As climate change reshapes American lives, it is making the workplace deadlier. Hundreds of workers have died from heat exposure over a decade. Industry and government protections are often failing.
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.
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.
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.