United Farm Workers & UFW Foundation Welcome Proposed Rulemaking for Federal Heat Standards for Outdoor Workers

Washington D.C. — The United Farm Workers and the UFW Foundation welcome the proposed creation of a federal heat safety standard by the Biden-Harris administration. This common-sense and life-saving rule, proposed by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will, once effective, protect the health and lives of farm workers who have no choice but to work during dangerous temperatures. This federal rule has been a long-time priority for the farm worker movement and is the result of decades of advocacy by farm workers, often in the wake of immense tragedies including farm worker deaths.

OSHA’s newly proposed federal heat safety rule is modeled on existing heat safety standards in California, Oregon and Washington, all of which were implemented following the deaths of farm workers killed on the job by extreme heat. The proposed OSHA rule includes:

  • Requiring worker access to clean drinking water;
  • Requiring worker access to shaded and/or indoor rest areas.
  • Requiring workers to have the right to take regular rest breaks
  • Requiring employers to educate and train workers as to these rights, as well as implement a climate acclimatization plan for workers

In response to the proposal by the Biden-Harris administration, the UFW and UFW Foundation released the following statements:

This is a bittersweet moment for farm workers,” said UFW President Teresa Romero.  “Every significant heat safety regulation in America at the state, and now federal, level was written in the blood of farm workers. Every year farm workers are killed by heat – with known deaths likely drastically outnumbered by the unknown, uncounted deaths. This is particularly true in states such as Florida and Texas, where extreme anti-worker and pro-death Governors have taken extreme action to dismantle the few local workplace heat protections that existed. Today, the federal government put itself on the right side of history by seeking, for the first time, to establish the precedent that every worker in America has the right to shade, water, and rest while working in temperatures that could kill them. As extreme temperatures continue to become the new normal, we also know it will continue to be America’s most marginalized yet essential workers, disproportionately immigrants, who will continue to be used by our society as disposable human shields against climate change. This proposal is a step towards becoming a better nation – one in which our economy is more resilient, our society more just, and every worker able to work with dignity and come home to their family.”

“For years, the UFW Foundation has urged OSHA to establish a federal heat standard so that all farm workers and other outside workers can have a safe work environment regardless of the state they live in,” said UFW Foundation Interim CEO Erica Lomeli Corcoran. "It's about time OSHA proposes a national heat safety standard for outdoor workers. Farm workers are among the most affected by extreme heat and yet they have the least workplace protections. Common sense solutions, like fresh water, paid breaks, shade and training of outdoor workers during periods of extreme heat should be the federal norm. We urge OSHA to swiftly finalize and implement this proposed rule in the name of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez from California, Dario Mendoza from Arizona, and Miguel Angel Guzman Chavez from Georgia, and far too many other farm workers who were killed by extreme heat and lack of protections.”