Biden administration pushes for climate-related worker protections
The Biden administration is pushing for new worker protections after record temperatures killed or sent scores of workers to hospital this summer.
The Ministry of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration recently announced that it is focusing more on prioritizing inspections during hot days, as they target high-risk industries nationwide such as roofing and landscaping.
“When I first came into the industry many years ago, safety was a dirty word,” said Suzie Boyd, vice president of a roofing company in Colorado. “In our industry, you can have a lot of friction with OSHA, and a lot of friction on the restrictions, because it slows down the job and you sometimes aren’t as profitable with the job, but what I’ve seen in over the years and what I have experienced with our own business is that we have reduced the number of really terrible accidents and that is good.
A recent survey by NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations found that due to the extreme heat, 384 workers have died in the past decade, and looking at three-year averages, the number of worker deaths has doubled since 1990.
Additionally, data shows that these deaths disproportionately affect communities of color. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Hispanics make up only 17% of the U.S. workforce, but account for a third of all heat deaths since 2011.
The government’s new push to protect workers includes developing a federal rule that protects workers, something advocates have long sought.
“Work is our number one problem, so keeping them safe is all the more critical,” said John McMahon, CEO of Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado. “You know, the fact that OSHA is doing this, we welcome it as long as it is convenient.”
As of 2015, landscaping departments have the third highest number of serious injury reports according to OSHA.