Nevada Environmental Justice Coalition

OP-ED on SB427: Finally! A bill to protect workers from extreme heat

Finally! A bill to protect workers from extreme heat

By Gerardo Velásquez

Sunday, April 9, 2023 | 2 a.m.

Yes, heat waves can kill.

Strolling under a scorching heat of up to 127 degrees is not something we would do on a normal day. Now, imagine having to work for hours under the same circumstances.

As a solar panel installer in Las Vegas, working on solar farms, I deal with these conditions almost every day during the summertime. I once suffered from extreme dehydration at work. I am lucky to have  survived; sadly, other people do not.  

From 2016 to 2021, seven worker fatalities have been linked to extreme heat in Nevada.  

There has also been a recent increase in the number of heat-related stress complaints in the state, from 135 in 2020 to 202 in 2021.

State officials admit that this number may be higher because it does not include unreported cases.  

The sun has always been an occupational hazard and the effects of climate change are expected to make the heat even worse. Many migrant workers, especially in the construction industry and agriculture sector, are constantly exposed to extreme heat during the summer.  

The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted a federal program advising Nevada businesses on how to protect workers from heat illness and injuries, and conducts inspections of high-risk industries, but there are no heat illness standards and few protections for affected workers.  

Thankfully, the Nevada Environmental Justice Coalition (NEJC) is advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 427, “the excessive heat worker protection bill.” The bill seeks to standardize protections for Nevada employees working in extreme heat by giving them access to shade, water, education and training. These are essential to prevent heat stress and illnesses related to poor air quality.  

It may sound dramatic, but this feels like the “light at the end of the tunnel” for many Nevada workers like me. This bill is long overdue and it deserves to be supported by all stakeholders and, most especially, by our lawmakers.  

The bill was introduced by the Senate Committee on Government Affairs on March 27, and is currently awaiting a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Every Nevadan has a right to live and work safely. This bill would help ensure that right and decrease the number of fatalities related to extreme heat.

Gerardo Velásquez lives in Las Vegas where he works outdoors installing solar panels.