A group of organizations, including the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, today released a joint brief titled, “Heat is Here, Let’s Protect Workers,” on the prevention of heat-related illness, injury and death among workers in the construction and agriculture industries in the United States.
In addition to the School of Nursing, the La Isla Network, Migrant Clinicians Network, and the National Center for Farmworker Health call on a multistakeholder coalition — composed of policymakers, researchers, doctors, businesses, workers, and concerned individuals — to address concerns about heat, labor and health.
Information from the brief includes the following:
- Workers like those in agriculture and construction form the backbone of our society, yet rising heat is making their work riskier. To meet the moment, the current framework for protecting workers needs an upgrade. The group advises a framework for protecting workers that reinforces their rights, establishes a federal heat standard, creates a public health surveillance system, and implements trainings on spotting heat-related illnesses.
- Preventing immediate and long-term health effects from dehydration and chronic exposure to heat is simple, effective and inexpensive. Heat stress does not have to be a part of the job, and worker protections can provide a return on investment to businesses.
- Workers in agriculture and construction face intense work activity, comparable to an athlete. The nature of the work, in combination with extreme heat conditions, is excruciating and can be lethal. Bethany Boggess Alcauter, director of research and public health programs at the National Center for Farmworker Health, says, “Outdoor workers are athletes working in extreme conditions. We value professional athletes as a society, but why do we not show the same value for the people who put food on our tables each day?”
- Workers in agriculture and construction don’t have to succumb to heat stress. Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, assistant professor at the Emory School of Nursing, says, “For far too long, there has been a common notion that heat stress is simply something that comes with these jobs and that nothing much can be done about it — that is a false notion.”
- Thanks to cutting-edge research in combination with on-the-ground work and policy development, workers are being protected, one by one. “It’s past time to implement proven occupational health protocols to all workers and industries being harmed by heat and its consequences in the United States and the European Union,” says La Isla Network CEO and co-founder Jason Glaser. “La Isla Network has shown that these programs reduce harm, increase productivity, and provide a return on investment to employers. So, what’s the hold-up?”
- Though these protections are being rolled out across the world, there is still a long way to go in developing protection protocols in the United States that meet the current conditions. Ultimately, a piecemeal approach inevitably leaves workers behind in those states that do not adopt a policy, says Amy Liebman, chief program officer of workers, environment and climate for Migrant Clinicians Network. “Death from heat is preventable,” she adds. “No one, and certainly no worker, should ever die from the heat.”
About the School of Nursing
As one of the nation’s top nursing schools, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University is committed to educating visionary nurse leaders and scholars. Home to the No. 1 master’s, No. 2 BSN, and No. 6 DNP programs nationwide, the school has been recognized as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League of Nursing. The school offers undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and non-degree programs, bringing together cutting-edge resources, distinguished faculty, top clinical experiences, and access to leading health care partners to shape the future of nursing and impact the world’s health and well-being. Learn more at nursing.emory.edu.