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Labor union group hoping city proposal will lead to change in heat illness prevention

In April, two councilwomen submitted a council consideration request for a Heat Illness Prevention Task Force.

SAN ANTONIO — As temperatures trend warmer, the call for heat illness prevention only becomes louder.

The U.S. Department of Labor is warning employers not to ignore the dangers of staff members working under the sun.

A similar proposal is being worked on at the local level by San Antonio leaders and labor union groups.

In April, councilwomen from district 4 and 7 submitted a joint request for the City to create a Heat Illness Prevention Task Force to consider heat safety measures for construction workers.

The announcement was made at a press conference co-organized with district 5.

A press release said the proposal calls for the task force of construction industry leaders, laborers and work-safety experts to consider: (1) locally tailored educational training resources, (2) an ordinance requiring a 10-minute rest break in the middle of every four hours of work, and (3) an ordinance requiring construction companies to regularly submit a heat illness prevention plan to the City.

Matthew Gonzales is with the Laborers Local 1095 an affiliate of The Laborers International Union of North American (LiUNA). The union group showed support for the city's policy proposal.

"Those who build our communities should be able to thrive and prosper in the communities they build," said Gonzales.

He said the task force would only strengthen the production on the job site in hot conditions.

At the federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a National Emphasis Program to protect workers from heat illness and injuries.

As part of the program written online, OSHA will proactively initiate inspections in over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area.  

Employers and workers can also download a mobile app to help calculate the heat index and find out the risk level.

Gonzales said the app is just another tool employers can use on the job site. However, he's hoping the City's policy proposal could be a more meaningful solution.

"It's important for all employers to be accountable to the employees that they have and the businesses that they run," said Gonzales.

Gonzales said he is still waiting for the proposal to be put on the council's agenda.

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