June 23, 2024

New Jersey Proposes Worker Heat Protections, Continuing Recent Trend

New Jersey Senate Bill 2422 was recently introduced, proposing occupational heat stress standards for those working in high temperatures.

This bill would require employers to provide water with a temperature of less than 59° F, paid breaks, shade, regular heat monitoring, heat acclimatization practices, emergency responses for any employee who suffers injury as a result of excessive heat, and limits to heat exposure throughout the workday.

Additionally, employers must implement heat alert programs that provide notification to employees when the National Weather Service forecasts a heatwave is likely, which would then require the following actions from employers:

  • Postponing tasks that are not urgent until the heat wave is over
  • Increasing the total number of workers to reduce the heat exposure of each worker
  • Increasing rest allowances
  • Monitoring the environmental heat at job sites and resting places

The bill also would require record-keeping of heat-related illnesses and deaths, as well as anti-retaliation protections for workers who report unsafe conditions.

The introduction of this bill continues a growing trend, as a similar bill was introduced in Rhode Island, shortly after Texas and Florida passed limits against employer required heat protections. There has been much discussion surrounding worker populations susceptible to extreme climates, as they face unique health concerns, and it is likely that more states may introduce heat protections for worker populations.

This is especially possible as more data speaks to these concerns. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published a new report that measures the extent to which excessive heat has increased the incidence of work-related injuries in recent years.

Using claim data and weather data from 2016-2021 across 24 states, this report reviews direct heat-related injuries – where the effect of heat on one’s body leads to heat exhaustion, fainting, or cramps – and indirect heat-related injuries, when heat impairs the perceptual, motor, or cognitive abilities of workers, leading to accidents.

The probability of work-related accidents increased by 5-6% when the maximum daily temperature rises above 90°F, when compared to a day in the 65-70°F range.

This effect is even stronger in the South, with injury frequency increasing 9-11% when temperatures are above 90°F. For construction workers, injury frequency increased 8% in temperatures above 90°F.

Additionally, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) published a report that reviews the relationship between extreme temperatures and higher rates of on-the-job injuries.

Based on an analysis of nearly 95,000 workers’ comp claims from May through September for years 2017-2021, the report found that claims were 45% more likely to occur when the heat index is over 80°F, while severity increased by 20%.

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