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Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA
A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.
More than 130 groups led by Farmworker Justice, United Farm Workers and Public Citizen signed a petition sent to OSHA noting that two in every 1,000 American workers are now subject to heat stress, and calling on the agency to mandate that employers provide adequate hydration and shade, medical attention and rest breaks during high heat events.
The Obama administration denied a previous petition for a heat stress standard from the coalition in 2012.
"I don't want any more families to go through the pain that my family went through," Californian Raudel Felix García, whose brother died while working his job at a vineyard during triple-digit temperatures, told reporters on a press call.
As reported by the Huffington Post:
"Deaths and injuries from extreme heat are still too common in states without any protective standards," said United Farm Workers of America President Arturo S. Rodriguez, who spoke to reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. "Farmworkers are not agricultural implements. They are important human beings who sweat and sacrifice to feed millions of people across America and the world."
Rodriguez's organization, along with two former OSHA directors, the nonprofit consumer group Public Citizen, and a broad coalition of more than 130 labor, public health and environmental organizations, filed the petition to Loren Sweatt, the acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, on Tuesday.
Without a federal heat stress standard, OSHA relies on a general requirement that employers provide workplaces free of hazards. But as global warming causes more frequent spells of extreme heat and record-breaking summers become the norm, the coalition said employers are falling far short.
"We argue that [the general requirement] is not enough," said Shanna Devine, a worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen. "Employers aren't going to voluntarily implement these common-sense criteria ― access to water, shade and breaks ― unless required to and unless there is likely to be a real penalty."
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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