|Action||NOIRA on Heat Illness Prevention|
|Comment Period||Ends 6/9/2021|
Comments of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber,
Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers
International Union, AFL-CIO (USW)
Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) for the
Heat Illness Prevention Standard, 16VAC25-210
June 9, 2021
These comments are submitted on behalf of the members of the USW. We commend and we thank the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (VDLI) and Safety and Health Codes Board for taking the first step to issue a standard to protect workers from heat illness as well as the opportunity to comment on the Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA).
Heat Stress Protections are Essential to Protect Working People in Virginia
Neither Federal OSHA or the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) Program have a comprehensive standard protecting workers against heat stress. This puts Virginia’s workers at risk of reduced productivity, but more importantly, injuries, disease, or worse yet, death when exposed to heat stress hazards with both outdoor and indoor work.
The USW has experienced fatalities involving heat-related exposures. USW members’ exposures occur in some of the following industries: Atomic, Chemical, Energy and Utilities, Glass, Manufacturing, Metals (Steel, Aluminum, etc.), Oil and Petroleum, Paper and Forestry, Plastics, Pottery, Rubber and Tires. Our members have experienced heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting and dizziness), heat rash and rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown). Some cases have even required oral and intravenous (IV) fluid therapy. One member’s mental status was altered and the employer mistakenly interpreted this as impairment from a controlled substance, but a trained in-plant emergency responder recognized the symptoms and helped our member get the urgent care needed.
Virginia Cannot Wait on Federal OSHA
The VDLI and VOSH Program cannot wait for OSHA or Congress to take possible future actions in protecting workers against heat stress. Virginia took the correct steps in not waiting for Federal OSHA to act against COVID-19 and enacted the country’s first COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard and later a permanent standard. The actions of VDLI and VOSH says volumes of how Virginia can go beyond OSHA to protect Virginia’s workers. Additionally, the Safety and Health Codes Board unanimously voted to push the current NOIRA forward, showing they know the importance of these standards.
The Safety and Health Codes Board Must Consider all Options to the Maximum Extent to Protect Workers
The Safety and Health Codes Board should consider the following:
In conclusion, VDLI and the VOSH Program must protect all workers from the hazards of occupational heat exposure. Applying the hierarchy of controls will prevent reduced productivity, but more importantly, injuries, disease, or worse yet, death for Virginia’s workers. We cannot continue to rely on voluntary compliance. We strongly encourage Virginia to move forward with a comprehensive standard to make all workers safer.
Director of Health, Safety and Environment