By: Pastrana & Garcia Injury Law, Published: October 31 2023

Examining Texas’ Controversial Ban on Water Breaks for Construction Workers

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    With unseasonably warm temperatures becoming the norm, Texas, with summers pushing over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for months on end, is feeling the burn.

    Extreme heat kills more Americans annually than any other weather-related cause. These conditions pose a threat to every Texas resident—particularly to those who work outdoors. A potentially deadly bill passed in June of 2023 compounds the danger for Texas construction workers by rolling back laws that protected construction workers’ mandatory water breaks every four hours during the work day.

    Rest and regular intake of fluids are essential to stave off dangerous heat-related illnesses, but instead, this law places the weighty responsibility on workers to make sure they hydrate well and take breaks — or face heat stroke and, in some cases, death.

    The “Death Star” Bill and What it Means for Construction Workers

    Nicknamed the “Death Star” bill because of the potentially deadly consequences, House Bill 2127 is a law recently signed by Gov. Greg Abbott which goes into effect this September. This piece of legislation strips individual Texas city’s ability to create laws to ensure the safety of their workers, including life-saving rulings governing mandated water breaks.

    Because the state government has no legally required breaks for construction teams, many workers fear that the companies they work for will deny them necessary periods of rest that keep them safe during long working hours. Even OSHA, the federal entity that regulates worker safety, has no strict rulings on breaks during heat waves, focusing instead on acclimation and general suggestions.

    This leaves workers unprotected and forced to advocate for themselves in a competitive market where companies are grasping to save money over 10 minutes of rest time — and putting their employees at risk in the process.

    How Extreme Heat Can Be Dangerous for Construction Workers

    Construction work is already a dangerous profession, but add our current weather conditions, and that’s a recipe for skyrocketing ER visits and   deaths. While age can play a factor in heat-related illnesses, dangerous weather like the type Texas is seeing affects everyone. Since the “Death Star” bill was signed, dozens of people have died from the extreme heat.

    But what is heat stroke, and why is it so deadly? Heat stroke, or hyperthermia, happens when your body’s temperature reaches over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If not treated, it can be fatal or trigger incidents like heart attacks, even days later. Even if it doesn’t kill you, heat stroke can permanently affect your brain, heart, and kidneys, particularly if you have pre-existing conditions.

    It’s essential that you not only take precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke but actively take the time to recover if you end up with one of these illnesses. It is suspected that heat-related illnesses and deaths are overlooked and underreported, meaning that the dangers construction workers face is greater than our current numbers show.

    How to Stay Safe While Working Outside in Extreme Temperatures

    Here are some tips that construction workers can use to keep themselves safe:

    • Hydrate often with both water and fluids with electrolytes
    • Rest (in the shade or air conditioning, if possible)
    • Train your body to work in the heat; start with fewer hours and multiple rests
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
    • Wear a hat and sunscreen to help keep cooler

    We understand job sites might pressure you to keep working under all circumstances, but it’s important to notice how you’re feeling during the work day and stop for a break before you’re ill. Some people don’t even realize they have heat stroke until it’s too late. However, because heat stroke is so deadly, you need to watch for these symptoms in yourself and your coworkers. Seek medical attention immediately if you:

    • Feel dizzy, nauseous, or faint
    • Are vomiting or feeling like passing out
    • Feel cold or clammy
    • Have flushed skin or feel overheated
    • Changes in pulse
    • Are disoriented or incapable of walking or speaking

    If you or your coworkers experience any of these symptoms, call 911 and get to an air-conditioned or shady place. Try to cool your body down with water or by wetting your clothes. Even if you start to feel better, get professional medical assistance.

    Contact Pastrana & García Injury Law

    If you or someone you know has been injured because of unsafe working conditions in extreme heat, contact us, your Pflugerville construction accident law firm. We’re here to make sure your rights as an employee and as a person are upheld. Call us at 512-474-4487 or reach out online today to get the justice you deserve.