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Outside workers expected to lose break requirements as heatwave soars through Texas

Many who work outside could lose break requirements.
Mengwen Cao
Many who work outside could lose break requirements.

With temperatures soaring across Texas over the next week, many workers are at increased risk of heat stroke and related illnesses. Texas workers have few protections from being forced to work in debilitating heat and they'll soon have even less.

Among the most vulnerable to extreme heat are truck drivers, utility workers, and construction workers. Jay Malone is with the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

"A large percentage of our construction workforce, in particular, is undocumented,” Malone said. “And this means that they're particularly at risk of retaliation if they refuse to work in dangerous conditions."

A state law set to take effect September 1 could override local ordinances in Houston, Austin and Dallas mandating the use of air conditioning or water breaks.

"We're going to see more 100-degree days this summer, I think, than we probably ever have, and those will likely continue into the fall."

Malone says OSHA federal standards to guard against heat stroke are ineffective in Texas due to agency understaffing.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Andrew Schneider | Houston Public Media