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Nevada senator introduces bill on heat-related work deaths

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto at a North Las Vegas construction site on Aug. 30, 2023.
Yvette Fernandez
Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto at a North Las Vegas construction site on Aug. 30, 2023.

There were over 344 reported deaths nationwide caused by heat exposure between 2011-2019, according to OSHA. Last April, the agency launched a program focused on raising awareness about heat-related hazards.

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said she wants to go beyond that and has introduced legislation to give OSHA the authority to set national safety standards.

At a construction site in North Las Vegas, welders, electricians and construction workers will work in temperatures ranging between 100 and 108 this week.

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The Southern Nevada Building Trades Union represents 19 different trades.

“All trades, with the exception of the Carpenters Union," said Vince Saavedra, the union’s executive secretary treasurer. “There’s currently no enforceable rules to protect workers from extreme heat, adding non-union workers are especially vulnerable. … Basics like water and if there’s no shade, how are you supposed to get them to safety."

That’s why Cortez Masto wants to change the current standards.

“My goal at a federal level is setting that federal standard at a minimum level so states can incorporate what they need to do in their state to protect their workers. Again, its about worker safety,” said Cortez Masto as she toured the site.

While we may experience heat every summer, heat is becoming more intense and lasting longer. And, “its not just happening here in Southern Nevada or the state. We are really seeing now in this country more people, even on the east coast dealing with extreme heat which they’ve never had to deal with before," she said.

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Cortez Masto said she believes her bill will get bipartisan support.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.