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Paduda: The Heat Is On

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Heat exposure has killed 40 workers per year since 2011.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

Heat and other exogenous factors related to human-caused climate change will likely be the fastest-growing driver of occupational injuries.

Fortunately, others are stepping into the gaps caused by a failure of leadership in the federal Department of Labor and outright stupid behavior by some state politicians. (Note that dozens of elected representatives have authored a bill that would require and enforce heat protection standards for workers. Of course, the House can’t even pass a budget, so this is not going anywhere.)

California has been a leader and is on the verge of implementing standards to protect indoor workers from heat exposure. Minnesota and Oregon also have indoor heat standards. Colorado, Oregon and Washington also have rules for outdoor workers.

Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been dithering for years, failing to establish enforceable standards while more workers die.

The American Society of Safety Professionals just published standards for protecting construction workers from heat. These standards have no teeth, but would very likely have prevented this death.

Meanwhile, politicians in Florida are doing their best to kill more workers. That is NOT hyperbole. Florida passed legislation protecting student-athletes from heat but has actively promoted legislation that would prohibit local governments from requiring employers to offer the same protection to workers.

And then there’s Texas.

Good news: The Workers Compensation Research Institute's annual meeting will include insights into climate-related drivers of occupational injuries.

What does this mean for you?

Higher workers’ comp rates, more injuries and more dead workers in Texas and Florida — and elsewhere.

Joseph Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates, a consulting firm focused on improving medical management programs in workers’ compensation. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.

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