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Texas Outlaws Heat Safeguards for Construction Workers

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 30, 2023

As temperatures in Texas soar above 100 degrees, Governor Greg Abbott has just signed a law that will make it illegal for any Texas city to require employers to allow construction workers get water breaks, even in extreme heat. The law nullifies ordinances in Austin and Dallas that require 10-minute breaks every four hours so that construction workers can drink water and protect themselves from the sun.

At least 42 Texas workers died from environmental heat exposure between 2011 and 2021 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest number of any state. Six out of 10 Texas construction workers are Latino.

Excessive heat in North Carolina: Impacts on workers compensation costs and healthcare services utilization and claims

By Garrett Bradford, Robert J. Meyer, Joanne Buckle, Philip S. Borba, Sheryl Hou, Rong Yi, and Kailey Adams - Millman, June 27, 2023

Extreme heat events are the largest source of weather-related mortality in the United States, with documented impacts on both workers compensation claims, negative health outcomes, and increased emergency department visits. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), approximately 51 million U.S. workers are at high risk to extreme heat based on their occupation, yet only 9 million live in states with permanent workplace heat standards.

NRDC recently engaged Milliman to study the relationship between workers compensation costs, healthcare services utilization, and excessive heat in North Carolina, a state with no workplace heat standards, where an estimated 1.7 million workers (27% of the workforce) are at high risk to extreme heat.

This report summarizes the research methods and findings, which included a strong correlation between indemnity costs and the heat index of annual hours above static threshold (90°F) for the groups of workers that were studied.

This report was commissioned by NRDC.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

Texas Takes Away WATER BREAKS Amid Record Heat Wave

TCU National Representative Jason Cox at NTSB’s Investigative Hearing in East Palestine

Worker Dies of Heat Stroke 6 days After Abbott Signs Bill Repealing Heat Protections

By Jordan Barab - Confined Space, June 21, 2023

Less than a week after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that will repeal measures in Austin and Dallas to protect workers against heat related illness, a worker has died in Texas from heat stroke.

Utility lineman dies while helping restore power to Texas residents following storms

MARSHALL, Texas (KLTV/Gray News) – Officials say a utility lineman from West Virginia working to restore power in Texas has died.

KLTV reports that the 35-year-old lineman, whose name was not immediately released, was working with Appalachian Power to restore electricity to the Marshall area after last week’s storms.

According to Harrison County Justice of the Peace John Oswalt, the worker’s death has been attributed to heat-related causes.

Oswalt said the man had been working with his crew in the heat on Monday and told the group that he wasn’t feeling well once they returned to their motel.

Austin and Dallas require rest breaks and water for construction workers to protect them against heat illness. The “Death Star” bill will repeal those protections on September 1 because, according to the bill’s sponsors, Texas businesses are unable to deal with a “hodgepodge” of different requirements in different cities.

Northeast Ohio Protestors Demand Justice for East Palestine

By x409232 - Industrial Worker, June 20, 2023

At about one o’clock on Saturday, March 11, at least 40 local residents and activists gathered in Lisbon, Ohio to demand justice for East Palestine. They focused their protest on rail giant Norfolk Southern and its role in the derailing of the train on Feb. 3, 2023.

The seat of Columbiana County, Lisbon is less than 20 miles from the now infamous East Palestine. The afternoon air was cold but not biting – typical March weather here in the Mahoning Valley. But the atmosphere was tense. 

People had joined together to show their anger at Norfolk Southern and determination to make them pay for damages. They held signs and distributed info about community actions to get more people involved. They also gave testimony for the news cameras.

I made my way from my home in Salem, just a 10 minute drive down State Route 45. The derailed train had first passed through our town, already on fire, on its way to its eventual wreckage site. It easily could have been my own family evacuating in February–a thought that has kept me up many nights since.

I parked and shuffled from my spot near Fox’s Pizza Den into the town square. There, protesters had already gathered, holding signs for passing traffic. “Make Norfolk Pay,” read one. “You break it, you buy it,” read another.

Railroad Workers United didn’t attend for fear of company retaliation, but sent a solidarity statement read by a DSA member. “Put power back in the hands of the workers!” cried one speaker. “Workers make the world run.”

Now often called Ohio’s Chernobyl, East Palestine previously led a quiet existence. But the town of 4,800 was thrown into disarray, and then despair, by February 3’s 150-railcar “mega-train” derailment. This industrial catastrophe doused the surrounding area with extremely hazardous chemicals. 20 railcars contained deadly compounds, including one million pounds of vinyl chloride.

Residents around the town testified (and still do) of headaches, nose bleeds, dizzy spells, nausea, rashes, difficulty breathing, sore throats, and more. Norfolk Southern and the government specified a one mile hazard zone, but people 30 to 50 miles out–or more–are being affected. According to testimonies at the solidarity action in Lisbon, Norfolk Southern’s “clinic” staff and state officials have told sick residents that these symptoms are “all in their heads.” (Yet CDC inspectors have also fallen sick with the same symptoms. So much for that!)

UPS Teamsters’ Beat the Heat

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 15, 2023

On June 14, the Teamsters and UPS agreed to tentative language to equip UPS vehicles with air conditioning systems, new heat shields, and additional fans, according to a union statement. The agreement will cover the 340,000 UPS workers who are members of the Teamsters union.

NBC News reports that temperature readings taken by workers in UPS trucks in Arizona and Florida have shown temperatures above 150 degrees. At least 145 UPS employees have been hospitalized for heat illnesses since 2015.

“Folks are super excited” about the heat agreement, said Zakk Luttrell, a UPS driver and union shop steward in Norman, Okla. “It’s not just about what’s cost effective and efficient anymore, it’s about keeping people alive.”

Meanwhile, 97% of UPS employees voting authorized a strike to start August 1. Such a strike would be the largest against a single employer in US history.

It’s Danger Season and Workers Need Heat Safety Protections Now; UPS Knows It

By Alicia Race - Union of Concerned Scientists, June 15, 2023

What would be the largest single-employer strike in US history may soon be avoided if UPS and the Teamsters union reach an agreement on adding life-saving cooling equipment in more than 90,000 fleet vehicles. UPS is the largest employer here in Louisville, Kentucky, so a strike would have serious implications for the metro region as well as on the entire US economy. UPS workers are asking for protection just as Danger Season has started and the summer is predicted to be hotter than usual. While the cooling equipment is one piece of the worker negotiations, it’s a crucial piece–worker heat protections save lives and are worth fighting like hell for.

My dad often works outdoors in extreme temperatures, so I feel for every single worker and family whose lives have been or could be devastated by preventable heat illness or fatalities.

Washington employers push back on new worker heat-protection rules

By Farah Eltohamy - Crosscut, June 15, 2023

Lorena, a former farmworker from Sunnyside, toiled day and night tending to blueberries in Washington’s Yakima Valley for close to a decade.

By year six, Lorena’s employer had elevated her to a supervisory role – which she said she personally took as an opportunity to better advocate for her fellow farmworkers out in the sweltering summer conditions.

Lorena, who asked to be identified by her first name only to avoid any potential reprisal from her former employer, regularly reported any problems she saw with lack of access to adequate water and shade – and over the years was met with repeated retaliation that she said ultimately drove her out of the career in 2021.

The heat is becoming more extreme each passing year, Lorena told Crosscut, but most changes to working conditions seem for “the benefit of the fruit, not for the benefit of farmworkers.” 

Agricultural workers are among those most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention they’re dying of heatstroke at a rate nearly 20 times greater than all U.S. civilian workers. 

The Impact of Commute Times on the Fatigue and Safety of Locomotive Engineers and Conductors

By Naomi J. Dunn and Susan Soccolich - US Department of Transportation, Fereal Railroad Administration, June 2023

The survey showed that not only did locomotive engineers and conductors frequently experience fatigue, but it also indicated fatigue affected their operation of a locomotive train. Self-identified highly fatigued locomotive engineers and conductors were:

  • Twice as likely to experience any type of fatigue-related safety event while operating a locomotive compared to those who were not highly fatigued
  • Four times more likely to have missed a required stop compared to conductors not feeling highly fatigued
  • 3.4 times more likely to have had a near miss while operating a locomotive than locomotive engineers who reported not feeling highly fatigued

Just under 40 percent of participating locomotive engineers and conductors fit the classification of being highly fatigued; over 60 percent of locomotive engineers and conductors were classified as not being highly fatigued.

Fatigue also increased the odds of locomotive engineers and conductors being involved in fatigue-related driving events during their commute to and from work. The risk was higher for those who reported having long commute times (i.e., over one hour). The major contributors to fatigue were related to scheduling, or lack thereof in the case of irregular work. Variability in start times and frequent switching from day to night work were associated with increased risk of fatigue for locomotive engineers and conductors. Shiftwork, long-duration tasks, and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle are well-documented contributors to fatigue and key risk factors identified in this survey for safety incidents both in the workplace and on the roads.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).


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