According to a new study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, construction workers accounted for 36 percent of all occupational heat-related deaths in the United States from 1992 to 2016, despite making up just 6 percent of the total workforce.
In particular, the NCIB’s research shows that Hispanic construction workers, particularly those born in Mexico, are at a higher risk of heat-related death.
Certain occupations within the construction industry are also linked to higher rates of heat-related deaths, including cement masons, roofers, brick masons, construction laborers, and heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics.
The study also linked the increasing rates of heat-related deaths to the year-over-year rising of average summer temperatures across the country due to climate change.
In its conclusion, the NCIB study recommends that the construction industry improve regulations and combat global warming at an industry-wide level.
“U.S. construction workers are at a high risk of heat-related death, and this risk has increased with climate change over time,” the study states. “Effective workplace interventions, enhanced surveillance, and improved regulations and enforcement should accompany broader efforts to combat global warming.”
Steps have been taken to protect workers in the U.S. from heat-related injuries and illnesses, including the recently proposed “Ascunion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act of 2019”, or H.R. 3668. The bill calls for OSHA and the federal government to increase regulation and establish protections for all workers who work in conditions of extreme heat.
“The costs of lower labor productivity under rising temperatures is estimated to reach up to $160,000,000,000 in lost wages per year in the United States by 2090,” the bill states.
While H.R. 3668 does not have a good chance of being passed in its current form, it is encouraging to see that protections and regulations are being proposed to combat rising rates of heat-related deaths.