Despite hotter and longer summers, OSHA has ignored calls to set heat standards for decades.
Unprecedented heat waves have roiled the country this summer, increasing workers’ risk for heat-related illnesses, like exhaustion and stroke. For some workers, the record-high temperatures have even been fatal: Just last month, Florencio Gueta Vargas, who worked on a hops farm in Washington, died at the end of a shift, due to a health condition exacerbated by heat. As summers have gotten progressively hotter and longer due to climate change over the past few decades, what have workplace safety regulators been doing? Kicking the can down the road, apparently. A Politico investigation finds that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency that oversees worker safety, has repeatedly shrugged off calls from public health officials to set heat standards since 1975. That’s 46 years or nine presidential administrations.