The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new initiative to safeguard workers from heat-related accidents, according to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Harris announced the National Emphasis Program on Heat, under which OSHA would conduct nationwide occupational heat inspections for the first time in more than 70 high-risk industries while speaking at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Philadelphia.
When the National Weather Service issues a heat warning or advisory for a local area, OSHA said it will proactively conduct inspections in both indoor and outdoor work situations as part of the initiative.
OSHA inspectors and compliance specialists will also participate in outreach and technical support to keep workers safe on days when the heat index is 80 degrees or higher.
“We’re going to keep an eye on things to make sure the workers aren’t out there without us making sure they’re getting all of the protections they’re entitled to,” Harris said. “And we’re not stopping there.”
Harris went on to say that she and President Joe Biden want to “head the most pro-union government in America’s history,” emphasizing their efforts to safeguard and extend workers’ rights to organize.
“Communities get stronger as a result of unions. They have the ability to bring people together. And, of course, they safeguard employees from harassment and discrimination. They also provide workers with a voice “she stated “Simply put, unions propel our country forward. And the American people are well aware of it.”
The White House Labor Task Force, which Harris co-chairs with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, issued a report in February urging federal agencies to prioritize federal subsidies to create union jobs.
“This administration has no qualms about using the word union,” Walsh added. “It’s not scared to speak the words collective bargaining and talk about the necessity of collective bargaining, workers’ rights, health and safety protections, those things that you fight for every day.”
Harris also praised the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill’s incentives for labor unions. “It will employ thousands of union workers around the country, including carpenters, pipefitters, plumbers, and, yes, sheet metal workers,” she claimed.