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Cryan Bill Would Protect Workers from Dangers of Excessive Heat

TRENTON – A Senate committee today approved legislation authored by Senator Joe Cryan that would protect workers from the dangers of excessive heat. The bill, S-2422, which passed out of the Senate Labor Committee with a vote of 4-0, would establish the “Occupational Heat-Related Illness and Injury Program” in the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“Excessive heat poses real dangers to the health and safety of workers in a variety of professions,” said Senator Cryan. “The dangers have become more severe in recent years as temperatures have increased. We live in warmer times and there are consequences for working people.”

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, annual temperatures have risen by more than four degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 and global warming is accelerating the increase. Heat stress contributed to the deaths of 479 American workers between 2011 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Senator Cryan, also the sponsor of New Jersey’s Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights, said keeping workers safe from heat is an extension of that landmark worker safety law.

The legislation would require New Jersey employers to offer protections for workers who face extreme heat, a threshold that would be temporality set at a heat index of 80 degrees Fahrenheit for outdoor workers and generally at a temperature of 80 degrees for indoor workers. In certain cases where indoor workers must use hot equipment or wear gear that restricts cooling off, protections would kick in at 75 degrees.

In these cases, employers would have to take additional steps, including providing cold water, rest breaks with access to shade or climate-controlled spaces, limiting the amount of time employees are exposed to extreme heat during the day, and provide emergency response for any employees suffering from a heat illness.

The bill would also have the Labor Department create a heat stress standard and more specific regulations for employers to follow. It would require employers to develop heat-related illness and injury prevention plans and it would offer legal protections for workers who report heat-related concerns. State regulators would be authorized to investigate reported problems, issue stop-work orders, and fine employers up to $5,000 for each violation.

The standards outlined in the bill would be in effect until the state Labor Department adopts permanent requirements.