Have you ever looked at roofers working in the Florida heat and wondered how they do it?
We have, too.
That’s why working in the heat is now being identified as an occupational health issue by Public Citizen, an influential national nonprofit.
In a new report on dangerous heat, Public Citizen states that heat-related injuries and illnesses are increasing in Florida — and across the nation.
“Heat was the leading weather killer in the U.S. over the past 30 years,” according to the report, “and the problem is growing worse due to climate change.”
The report also notes that Florida has one of the highest rates of heat-related hospitalization in America.
Of course, outdoor workers are not the only ones who are vulnerable as our temperatures get hotter and hotter.
Heat affects children more than most adults; it should already be common sense to know this, but children should not be left in locked cars on hot days.
And seniors often have chronic health conditions that impair normal responses to heat: only last year, eight people between the ages of 70 and 99 died in a Hollywood Hills nursing home when the facility lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.
Pregnant women, too, are also at higher risk during extreme heat because they can be prone to dehydration.
But because they are required to do strenuous physical labor under consistently hot conditions, outdoor workers deserve increased attention; the fact is they are the ones most at risk of heat-related illnesses.
“Many attempt to work through discomfort or illness without complaint,” declares the Public Citizen report, “because they cannot afford to lose work time or fear losing their jobs.”
Given that — as the report points out — 17 of the hottest 18 years on record have occurred since 2001, the issue of working under extreme heat won’t be going away.
It’s pretty damning that, as the Public Citizen report notes, less-prosperous nations in Central America have made more progress in protecting outdoor workers than the United States (one of the world’s economic giants).
The trend of rising temperatures isn’t going to change.
But we can and should change how we protect the workers who toil in such heat.
An editorial from the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.