A sign-on letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists is calling for the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration to design and implement critical worker protections to save their lives and livelihoods from climate-driven extreme heat. The letter states an acceptable heat standard should:
- include a clearly defined acclimatization plan;
- limit the discretion of the employer in determining appropriate provisions for shade, rest, and water so that workers have a consistent set of protections across the state and regardless of employer;
- establish a set of high heat procedures for high heat conditions;
track heat-related injuries;
- lower the heat index threshold for implementing heat protections from 88 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit to capture most occupational heat issues and include external influencing factors;
- include a set temperature for water given to workers rather than “suitably cool”; and
- be specific about rest breaks based on the severity of the heat index and workload.
It’s not just a Maryland problem: A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Too Hot to Work, projects that between now and 2065, climate change will quadruple US outdoor workers’ exposure to hazardous heat conditions, jeopardizing their health and placing up to $55.4 billion of their earnings at risk annually.