MAY 29, 2019
Extreme Temperatures Are Killing Workers
In advance of National Heat Awareness Day (May 31) and what is expected to be a blistering summer, we urge you to connect extreme temperatures, which kill workers every year, to the climate crisis. National Heat Awareness Day, established by the National Weather Service, is used to raise awareness of heat-related illnesses and encourage preventive measures.
Heat stress killed 815 U.S. workers and seriously injured more than 70,000 workers from 1992 through 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This likely is an undercount; many heat-related fatalities go unreported. A 2018 Public Citizen report also found that in an average week in 2018, more than 2.2 million construction and farm workers labored in extreme heat each day.
Alarmingly, there are no specific federal protections against extreme heat for workers. Last summer, more than 130 organizations and former government officials petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft rules to protect workers from heat.
In a disturbing long-term trend, 18 of the 19 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. Based on current anomalies and historical temperature readings, 2019 is expected to be a top-10 year, with a 99.7% chance of being in the top five.
Extreme heat is dangerous and deadly to both indoor and outdoor workers, and the threat is increasing rapidly due to rising temperatures.
Media coverage of the climate crisis, and harms it causes like extreme heat, is too scarce for such an important issue. Only 56% of Americans report hearing about the overheating of our planet in the media even once a month.
Reporters can connect extreme heat to the climate crisis in several ways, including considering how extreme heat events compare to historical averages, as well as discussing how global warming is changing the averages over time. Read Public Citizen’s memo on more ways to connect extreme heat to climate in your coverage.