ONC reporting – Ohioans have endured strong heat waves since last week, and farm workers are feeling the brunt of it.
Excessive heat can be deadly if you work outdoors. Over a six-year period, 121 outdoor workers lost their lives due to exposure to severe heat, according to an Investigate Midwest analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration data.
Mayra Reiter, who directs occupational safety and health for the nonprofit Farmworker Justice, says it’s time to set some standards.
“Farm workers and other outdoor workers should have a right to rest periods, so that they can recover from the effects of the heat. They should also have the right to have sufficient water for them in the field, and they should also have a right to shade.”
Outdoor and farm laborers are 35 times more likely to die from heat exposure than workers in other sectors, according to the National Institutes of Health. Ohio currently doesn’t have a heat standard for workers.
OSHA has been working on a heat-stress rule since 2021 that would require employers to provide adequate water and rest breaks for outdoor workers, as well as medical services and training to treat the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. However, according to a U-S Government Accountability Office report, this process can take from 15 months to 19 years. Reiter says that’s why it’s important for states to act.
“States could put through rules in place much more quickly and begin protecting workers much sooner, even in the absence of a federal rule. What we believe is that state policymakers, legislators, the administrative agencies need to start developing rules immediately.”
Only four states have adopted outdoor workplace heat-stress standards, and none are in the Midwest. Reiter says California was the first to implement such standards – followed by Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.