The need for worker protections is fueled by the intense heat

a construction worker leaving for the day. On the floor of the construction site, he is sitting and drinking water...

In light of the recent heat wave, which has resulted in at least a dozen fatalities, worker advocates in the US are once again calling for protections from extreme temperatures.

This weekend, temperatures as high as 43C (110F) are expected in some cities, including Phoenix and Las Vegas.

After a US Postal Service employee passed away last week in the sweltering Texas heat, calls for action increased.

For more than 35 years, Eugene Gates Jr. delivered mail for the US Postal Service. He collapsed in a customer's yard and was later declared dead at the hospital.

The death, whose cause has not been formally established, is being looked into by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Another wake-up call has been issued as a result of the incident, with Texas congresswoman Jasmine Crockett calling for action to "prevent avoidable deaths such as this.".

Carla Gates, Mr. Gates' widow, told CBS, the BBC's US news partner, "I don't care what job that you have - no one should be out in that heat.".

Regarding the modifications it was making in areas dealing with high temperatures, the US Postal Service declined to comment to the BBC. All employees receive training on heat-related illnesses, according to the statement.

When the heat index reaches 90 degrees, Amazon adjusts routes to account for the heat, according to the company, which faced its own questions after video of one of its delivery contractors appeared to swoon in the Texas heat this week.

It claimed that as Texas's temperatures rose in the middle of June, it began to give drivers up to two hours' worth of additional breaks.

By Friday afternoon, routes leaving from more than 170 delivery stations across the nation were running with modifications due to various weather-related factors.

"We are grateful to learn that this delivery driver is fine and in good health. Nothing is more crucial than the health and safety of our staff members and delivery partners, particularly during periods of extreme heat, and we take many measures to reduce risk, according to Amazon spokeswoman Maureen Lynch Vogel.

The Department of Labor reports a rise in heat-related workplace fatalities since the 1990s. According to a recent report, 36 people will pass away from heat-related illnesses at work in 2021.

These numbers significantly underestimate the issue, according to Juley Fulcher, a worker health and safety advocate for the progressive non-profit Public Citizen.

A US postal worker pushes a mail cart
Workers run the risk of injury in extreme heat.

As many as 2,000 worker fatalities and 170,000 injuries are attributed to heat exposure each year in the US, according to her organization, which has petitioned the government to create national heat rules for employers. Many of these injuries occur while working indoors, such as in restaurants and warehouses, as well as on the job outdoors.

According to her, the risks are heightened by heat waves, which typically give workers little relief from the heat at night.

It's a significant issue, she said. "It's past time for action. ".

National standards, according to Ms. Fulcher, should start requiring breaks and water at about 80F (26C), with more modifications as the temperature rises.

In some nations, like Germany, these safeguards are already in place. In spite of calls for regulations during last year's heat wave, the UK does not provide guidelines on the highest temperature at which it is safe to work.

Only three states in the US currently mandate that all employers make adjustments in response to heat, and there are currently no federal regulations requiring this.

Ms. Fulcher claims that a few additional states have recently begun developing their own policies.

However, Texas recently relaxed regulations by passing a state law that will invalidate local rules, such as those that would have required construction workers to take 10-minute water breaks every four hours.

Juan Pedro Munoz, an Austin-based construction worker, expressed his concern about losing these protections. He claimed he has been telling his four-person team to take breaks and drink water every hour due to the current circumstances.

Juan Pedro Munoz
Fernando Munoz.

The 45-year-old said in Spanish to the BBC, "It's hot - too hot.". Time is essential, dot. in order to avoid having to visit a hospital. ".

The dangers of heat exposure at work have been known for years, but the need to implement safeguards has only recently become more pressing due to an increase in heat waves and worker accidents.

This month, UPS acceded to a key worker demand made during ongoing contract negotiations with the Teamsters Union: the installation of air conditioning in new delivery trucks.

Amazon also made investments to modernize its fleet. It claimed that all of its delivery vans bearing the company's logo were equipped with air conditioning, which drivers were urged to turn on during their breaks in times of extreme heat. Additionally, drivers get water and other drinks.

After rejecting a petition in 2011, the US Labor Department started drafting a national employer regulation in 2021. Years are typically spent on the rule-making process.

Last year, the organization also began the first-ever "national emphasis" program in the nation to address the issue, stating that "heat illness - made worse by our climate's rising temperatures - presents a growing hazard for millions of workers.".

Eventually, I think [workers] will see these protections, Ms. Fulcher said. "I am extremely worried that we won't see enough protections, soon enough.

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