- Office of the Attorney General
Media Contact for AG Campbell Joins Coalition Calling for Emergency Federal Heat Exposure Standard to Protect Workers
BOSTON — Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell joined a coalition of attorneys general from seven states to petition the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency standard for occupational heat exposure to protect workers in the coming summer months.
“Workers across the country – and in the Commonwealth – should not face life-threatening working conditions during periods of extreme heat,” said AG Campbell. “As part of my ongoing commitment to protect workers and fight for climate justice, I’m joining my colleagues in calling on OSHA to urgently implement common sense measures to protect the health and safety of millions of workers.”
As climate change causes higher temperatures and humidity, the United States will continue to experience a long-term upward trend in heat-related illness and death. Occupational heat exposure is an issue of environmental and racial justice, as people of color and low-wage workers suffer disproportionately high rates of heat-related injury, illness and death in the workplace.
The petition calls on OSHA to put temporary, emergency standards in place to protect workers from exposure to extreme heat this summer while its work on a permanent national heat standard is still underway. The petition argues that extreme heat poses a grave danger to indoor and outdoor workers in a wide range of industries. For example, postal and delivery workers are regularly exposed to environmental heat stress while making deliveries – both while walking delivery routes and driving delivery trucks lacking air conditioning. In Massachusetts, there were almost 400 emergency department visits associated with heat-related injury or illness between 2016 and 2019. For Massachusetts workers, federal heat exposure standards would ensure that consistent safety rules are established for all employers, both public and private, across industries.
In the petition, the coalition proposes that the emergency temporary standard should take effect when the heat index reaches 80°F, a temperature where serious occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries become more frequent. The coalition recommends that OSHA require employers to provide, at a minimum, access to water; access to shaded or cool areas; rest breaks; acclimatization plans; temperature and workload monitoring; heat alert plans with written procedures; employee and supervisor training; recordkeeping; and heightened protections for most at-risk workers.
In her inaugural address last month, AG Campbell pledged to create safer and healthier communities across Massachusetts by fighting to protect the environment and ensuring we have clean air, water and land.
Assistant Attorneys General Julia Jonas-Day and Meghan Davoren handled this matter for Massachusetts. Joining AG Campbell in filing the petition are the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.