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Climate change is causing extreme weather in Ohio, Sen. Brown wants to protect workers from it

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It was a weather double whammy in the Miami Valley yesterday: the heat index was in the triple digits and thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes were forecasted for the evening. Extreme weather like yesterday will become more common, scientists say, because of climate change.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown` said workers who are exposed to these kinds of elements need protection. Brown proposed legislation last year to require companies to provide water and air conditioned breaks for their employees. It's called the Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act.

Workers who spend most of their day outside this time of year, like farm and construction workers, are the most at-risk for heat related illness but people who work indoors at places that get hot, like factories and bakeries, also get ill from heat at a high rate.

"Heat is the leading cause of death among all weather related workplace hazards. Some 70,000 workers have been seriously injured because of heat exposure on the job," Brown said during a press call today.

The statistics Brown cited are from OSHA data from 1992 to 2017.

Some workers already have heat protections in their contracts. Russel Smith, a member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers in Cleveland, is one of them. Smith said he supports Brown's legislation because it would ensure protection to all workers who deal with the heat.

"We must be mindful of all outdoor workers in all industries that don't have representation," he said. "If we don't, they will continue to be put at risk and endanger their lives while trying to make a living."

Brown said versions of the Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act are in the House and Senate.

The act doesn't have any Republican co-sponsors. Ohio's Republican Senator Rob Portman didn't respond to WYSO's request for comment.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.