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When it's hot outside, do Colorado's outdoor workers have any protections?

Colorado is one of only five states with heat-related labor law
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Posted at 10:58 AM, Jun 13, 2024

DENVER — Workers with outdoor jobs in Denver are facing a second day in a row of near hundred-degree temperatures.

While labor laws mandate breaks for all workers, there are no specific heat-related protections for most employees.

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment division director Scott Moss said Colorado is one of few states that has any laws beyond the federal government’s laws, but Colorado’s law only applies to agriculture workers.

“Agriculture is exempt from a number of areas of federal regulation, and Colorado has some of the stronger agriculture protections for farm workers,” Moss said.

At 80 degrees or higher, farm workers in Colorado have rights to water and shade. At 95 degrees or higher, they have rights to additional break time. Moss said it’s a complex process for states to enact individual laws. In addition to Colorado, only California, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington have laws of their own.

Heat is becoming a bigger issue, though. 2023 was the hottest on record for the planet. At the federal level, OSHA is close to publishing a proposed rule that would address heat safety. It could increase protections for farm workers, construction workers, and even some indoor workplaces like warehouses.

Moss said all workers are entitled to breaks, and it’s in employers’ best interest to provide their workers with more resources on hot days.

“Your workers aren't gonna be terribly productive and you're risking losing that productive work if you don't treat them like people who need breaks when they work long days in hard conditions,” Moss said.

Workers with complaints about safety on the job can contact CDLE or OSHA.

When it's hot outside, do Colorado's outdoor workers have any protections?

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