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Heat exposure addressed in proposed legislation

There are many people in New Mexico who work in jobs that require them to be outside. For example, you might work on a construction site, an oil field, on an airport tarmac or some other location in which you are not protected by an indoor, air-conditioned environment. Especially during the summer, this means you are likely exposed to extreme heat for extended periods of time, putting your health at risk.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 350 workplace fatalities have been recorded in the last decade due to heat exposure. Despite having clear laws on so many safety issues, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has none regarding this topic. OSHA merely has some general guidelines and recommendations for employers on how employees might remain hydrated. In addition, it has no mechanism or authority for enforcing those guidelines.

Only three states have enacted laws requiring protection for workers exposed to serious heat and sun: California, Minnesota and Washington. USA Today recently reported on a new bill that has been introduced by congressional representatives from California and neighboring Arizona that would create federal rules designed to protect workers who must endure such conditions. Full details of what it proposes are not known but it will be important to watch this develop.

If you would like to learn more about how to protect your rights, your health and your family if you must work in extremely hot conditions, please feel free to visit the employee's heat exposure and injury page of our New Mexico workers' compensation and workplace injury website.


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