Federal heat standards a ‘positive first step’ but require urgent action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Biden Administration announced an interagency effort to protect indoor and outdoor workers, including farm workers, from heat. As part of upcoming actions by relevant agencies, the White House notes the forthcoming issuance of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) by the Occupational Safety Health Agency (OSHA), a process to develop a federal workplace heat standard. The United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation have been strong advocates for a federal heat standard, providing government agencies details on the urgency to protect workers from heat. The UFW and UFW Foundation petitioned the Obama Administration for rulemaking and most recently petitioning the Biden Administration for an emergency heat standard.

UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres and United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero and issued the following statements in response.

UFW Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson Torres, said:

Farm workers are on the frontlines of climate change. They are the first responders of our food system, quickly and skillfully harvesting crops so they can reach our tables even when wildfires are raging in the background and smoke fills the air and in the midst of a deadly pandemic. 

A federal heat standard for workers is urgently needed as it would prevent countless deaths and illnesses. Currently, only a handful of states have heat rights to protect workers—making it extremely confusing and challenging for workers to understand and defend their rights when they migrate across states. The UFW Foundation looks forward to working with OSHA and the Biden Administration to implement a heat standard to protect the men and women who feed us.”

 United Farm Workers President Teresa Romero, said:

“This is a positive first step, but we expect urgency. Workers cannot wait years until meaningful protections are in place. Farm workers have been calling on state and federal leaders to take immediate, emergency action for years. In the meantime, they are working and dying— to feed the county.”