Across the United States, there has been an intense heat wave bringing about record levels of heat. In Texas, the heat index reached points of 118 to 120 degrees. Amidst this never-before-seen heat, construction workers in the state are set to lose their rest breaks thanks to a new bill signed into action by Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott.
Texas experienced 11 straight days of heat that reached 10 degrees or higher in the middle of July. This came at a time when construction workers were being told their future would look breakless thanks to Governor Abbott’s Texas Regulatory Consistency Act. This bill sets a precedent for local governments not being able to put into place laws that are stricter than state laws and overturns a rule that requires rest breaks for construction workers in places like Austin and Dallas. The law will go into effect on September 1st and will take away breaks with it.
Breaks were mandated in Dallas in 2015.
In the heat things like heat stroke are incredibly common. Outdoor workers who do very laborious work frequently suffer from heat exhaustion, and construction workers are a large part of that. There have been countless reports and times in which they have to call paramedics to help one of the people working on a site.
According to a Republican state representative, the law was passed to end “the current hodgepodge of onerous and burdensome regulations.” But the lawmakers fail to realize that with that they lose their ability to protect workers from natural issues, such as the record heat.
Before the break mandate had gone into effect, 33% of surveyed Dallas-based construction workers reported that they were not given breaks and 66% stated they were not given water either. It is expected that many will return to similar situations, which could lead to serious injury or illness and even fatalities as a result.
So many heat-caused ailments are preventable, but laws such as this make them nearly unavoidable.
By passing this law, Texas lawmakers simply create unsafe working environments for construction workers. They risk their lives and health simply to cut productivity loss by 10-20 minutes. It is extremely worrisome and unnerving that the state’s government does not care enough about the literal builders of the country to protect them in a basic human rights way.