April 12 (UPI) — Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration program to protect workers from heat-related injuries.
Speaking at Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Philadelphia, Harris said OSHA launched the National Heat Focus Program, under which the agency will for the first time begin national workplace heat inspections in more than 70 high-risk industries.
Under the program, OSHA said it will proactively initiate inspections of indoor and outdoor work environments when the National Weather Service issues a heat warning or advisory for a local area. Also on days when the heat index is 80 degrees or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance specialists will engage in education and technical assistance to keep workers safe.
“We’re going to be monitoring to make sure the workers aren’t out there without making sure they’re getting all the protections they’re entitled to,” Harris said. “And we’re not going to stop there.
In other remarks to the sheet metal workers’ union, Harris said she and President Joe Biden were “striving to lead the most pro-union administration in America’s history,” citing their efforts to protect and extend the rights of workers to organize.
“Unions create stronger communities. They bring people together. And they, of course, protect workers from things like harassment and discrimination. And they give workers a voice,” she said. “Put simply, unions move our nation forward. And the American people know it.”
Harris cited her work on the White House Labor Task Force, which she chairs with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, after he wrote a report in February, including recommendations to make it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain, and called on a dozen agencies to prioritize federal grants to create union jobs.
“This administration isn’t afraid to say the word union,” Walsh said. “He’s not afraid to say the words collective bargaining and talk about the importance of collective bargaining, workers’ rights, health and safety protections, those things that you fight for, that you work every day.”
Harris also touted provisions for unions included in the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
“It will put thousands of union workers, carpenters, pipe fitters, plumbers and, yes, sheet metal workers, to work across the country,” she said.