Rising temperatures hurt workers: Toiling away in heat can be dangerous, even fatal

Temperatures in the 100s may be unusual, but heat-induced illness and death at U.S. job sites are not

By Elizabeth Grossman
July 6, 2016 12:59PM (UTC)
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A home builder works at sunrise, Monday, June 20, 2016, in Gilbert, Ariz., in an effort to beat the rising temperatures. (AP Photo/Matt York)

This article originally appeared in In These Times.

This article originally appeared in In These Times.

The summer of 2016 is barely two weeks old, but this year is already on track to break high temperature records in the United States. On June 20, cities across the Southwest and into Nevada reached all-time triple-digit highs. Meanwhile, every single state experienced spring temperatures above average, with some in the Northwest reaching record highs. These temperatures have already proved deadly, killing five hikers in Arizona last month. Triple-digit heat earlier that same week is also being blamed for the deaths of two construction workers at the Monsanto campus in Missouri.


“I’ve been around since 1973 and we’ve never seen anything like this,” David Zimmermann, president and business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, told the St. Louis-Southern Illinois Labor Tribune. “With these new buildings, once they close them in, with the guys working in there, it’s like working in a big oven.”

While 100-degree heat this time of year may be unusual, serious illness and deaths caused by extreme heat at U.S. job sites are not. Last year, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received more than 200 reports of workers hospitalized because of heat-related illness and at least eight deaths associated with heat exposure. According to OSHA, heat has killed on average more than 30 workers a year since 2003. In 2014, 2,630 U.S. workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died on the job from heat stroke and related causes.

Read the rest at In These Times.

Elizabeth Grossman

Elizabeth Grossman (1957–2017) is the author of "Watershed: The Undamming of America," "Adventuring Along the Lewis and Clark Trail," and "High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health."

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