April 14, 2021
The Honorable Judy Chu
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Chu:
On behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), I am writing in support of your legislation – H.R.2193, the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2021.
ACOEM is a national medical society representing over 4,000 occupational medicine physicians and other health care professionals devoted to preventing and managing occupational injuries.
Heat is the leading weather-related threat to worker health and safety. Excessive heat can cause heat stroke and even death if not treated properly. It also exacerbates existing health problems like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease. Workers in agriculture and construction are at the highest risk, but the problem affects all workers exposed to heat, including indoor workers without climate-controlled environments.
Absent a federal standard, OSHA addresses heat-related injuries and deaths only by enforcing its “catch-all” general duty clause. Enforcement is scarce and, by definition, reactive rather than preventive.
H.R. 2193 directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a federal standard on the prevention of excessive heat in the workplace for outdoor and indoor workers. The legislation will protect the lives and health of workers, and employers will benefit from increased worker productivity as well as decreased accident, injury, and illness costs.
We hope that Congress will seize this opportunity to help encourage workplaces to adopt proven heat-illness prevention plans that ensure workers can recognize and respond to the signs of excessive heat stress. Through primary prevention and treatment, occupational health care providers are well-positioned to work with employers to implement prevention plans based on best practices. Occupational providers utilize national consensus recommendations such as those published by NIOSH and ACGIH when developing best practices but consider those recommendations to address the circumstances of each unique workplace.
Thank you for your leadership on the important issue.
Beth A. Baker, MD, MPH, FACOEM