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  • Warehouse Workers Pushing For Indoor Heat Standards
    Posted On: Apr 04, 2016

    By JoAnne Pow!ers, April 5, 2016

    While California has had extreme heat protections for outdoor workers for a decade, new legislation introduced by State Senator Connie Leyva would require the state to create a parallel policy for indoor workers, including warehouse workers in the supply chains of some of the world’s largest retailers. Warehouse Worker Resource Center President Sheheryar Kaoosji says the bill would help thousands of garment workers and restaurant workers, as well as a hundred thousand warehouse workers in Southern California. They work not only in un-cooled buildings, but also in shipping containers where temperatures can reach 120 degrees:

    [Sheheryar Kaoosji ]: “…working at a rapid pace, either lifting and loading, unloading boxes, walking back and forth quickly to move those boxes, operating machinery that also create additional heat. A lot of these workers are employed through staffing agencies, so they might not be acclimated to that heat. The kinds of things we see are workers feeling ill, feeling exhaustion very quickly, workers not drinking enough water and getting dehydrated. These kinds of issues can also build up and add to potential much more catastrophic issues like heart attacks and strokes. If you can prevent these kind of things by having decent policies, giving people extra breaks and training workers not just what to do but also what are the symptoms of heat illness…if you see somebody you’re working alongside who’s incoherent or is disoriented…is a really important thing.”

    The Warehouse Worker Resource Center is dedicated to improving the working conditions for low-wage warehouse workers in Southern California. Labor advocates won similar extreme heat protections for outdoor workers, such as farm and construction workers, including extra breaks and access to water. Without these protections, heat can be fatal:

    [Sheheryar Kaoosji ]: “The United Farm Workers spoke up about some outdoor workers who had not just fallen ill but died due to the heat, actually died before they were even able to be found by the employer. Working at warehouses, we’ve seen deaths, we’ve seen injuries continue to happen over the years, and it’s something that’s clearly very preventable, clearly very easy to anticipate. So, there was, we believe, need for much more clear and direct effort from legislature to ask the Cal/OSHA standards to be revised, to be much more clear and say that does need to be something that every indoor employer has to have a plan around. It’s very, very difficult to imagine why the industry would try to oppose it.”

    The legislation is scheduled for a hearing before the state’s Senate Labor Committee on Wednesday, and Kaoosji says it is time to take action:

    [Sheheryar Kaoosji ]: “Workers should be able to go to work and be protected from the heat. It’s something that makes workers more productive if they’re rested and able to perform well, but it’s also just a basic human right. Unfortunately, as the Earth is getting warmer, as everything is getting hotter and spring and summer come sooner every year here in California, this is something that we need to look out for and that we’re all going to have to deal with as things get worse.”

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