Recorded at AIHce EXP 2022
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration's primary responsibility is to protect workers from health hazards. But for decades, the agency has failed to adopt a national heat standard to safeguard workers against hot temperatures, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of American workers and an enforcement system rife with problems.
Workers of color have borne the brunt. As climate change fuels hotter days, the problem is getting worse.
That's the conclusion of a year-long investigation by NPR, The California Newsroom, The Texas Newsroom, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Public Health Watch, as documented in a digital and radio series called "Hot Days." The news organizations teamed up on this series, producing deeply reported national and local stories. Our reporters also tapped into the rich expertise at Columbia University to get beyond anecdote and quantify risk.
The Upton Sinclair Lecture will walk conference attendees through the "Hot Days" investigation, outlining the main findings and providing a window into the labor-intensive reporting process. We will demonstrate how a team of investigative reporters anchored by three CJI fellows used two federal datasets and hundreds of pages of documents on worker heat deaths to expose federal regulators' woeful record of heat-fatality investigations: Absent a legal standard, OSHA often lets companies whose employees have succumbed to heat escape with little penalty. We will rely on a PowerPoint presentation, a video and audio montage of reporters' testimonials, and audio clips of interviews with key sources to help tell the story behind this story, and how OSHA and other federal policymakers have responded in the months since.
Upon completion of the session, the participant will be able to:
• Gain a better understanding of how OSHA conducts its inspections and penalizes companies that have had multiple workers die of environmental heat exposure.
• Gain a better understanding of how OSHA's regulatory power can be hampered without legal standards that help track and prevent specific categories of worker fatalities.
• Learn more about the lengths that inspectors must take to confirm heat-related fatalities in a regulatory system not designed to keep track of such deaths.
• Learn more about the work of OSHA's own scientists on a national heat standard, what criteria the agency scientists have created and refined over decades and why.