Heat protection for workers

What employers have to do, by law
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 5:14 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -We are on track to have the hottest summer on record, yet laws protecting workers have not been updated in years. This month, OSHA issued its first-ever heat hazard alert - but what exactly does that mean for those who risk heat illness just by going to work?

Extreme heat is part of the law’s “general duty clause,” which says employers have an obligation to protect their workers. However, there aren’t specific standards for heat. The government has been working on drafting those since 2021, and it’s a long and political process. Only six states have their own regulations guaranteeing water, rest, and shade. Arizona is not one of them. Last month, a Yuma farm worker died in the heat. In fact, heat kills more people every year than any other form of severe weather.

The most fatal jobs, according to OSHA, include construction, farm work, and landscaping. Employers are required to provide heat safety training and a safe working environment. If they don’t, workers can file a complaint with ADOSH, Arizona’s regulating body.

”There’s a whole range of penalties from financial, to even be criminal liability under OSHA, so there’s the whole gamut,” said Jessica Post, Director of Labor & Employment Division at Fennemore Law. “In general employers are nervous, OSHA could shut them down. They’ve got to provide a safe working environment.”

With the new heat hazard alerts, The Department of Labor is ramping up enforcement of heat safety violations and increasing inspections of high risk industries like construction and agriculture.