It gets awfully hot in Texas during the summertime, so you would probably assume that people living in such a harsh climate would be particularly sensitive to the needs of those working in the hot sun. But that’s not the way things work in Texas.
Recently, Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that overturns local laws providing mandatory water breaks for workers in Texas. This is a harsh and mean-spirited law that threatens the health and safety of construction workers.
There are several known health risks caused by dehydration, especially for people who are working outside in hot weather. Federal regulations require employers to provide access to drinkable water, but there are no specific OSHA guidelines on how often employees must be provided with water breaks.
The state of New York does not have any laws that require regular rest or water breaks, but most employees who work a shift of six hours or longer in the Empire State have the right to a lunch break.
Why It’s Important for Workers to Drink Water
Water is essential for all life on earth, and about 60 percent of the human body consists of water. The water is refreshing and doesn’t contain any calories. It’s important to drink water every day to maintain your health, and the need for water increases when a person is sick, physically active, or exposed to a warm or hot climate.
People require more water to remain healthy when temperatures exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Water provides the following health benefits:
- Aiding digestion
- Enabling your joints to work properly
- Producing saliva
- Balancing chemicals in the body
- Regulating body temperature
- Delivering oxygen to the body and brain
- Eliminating waste products
- Cushioning bones, spinal cord, and other tissue
The Dangerous Effects of Dehydration
Dehydration is the condition in which your body loses so much fluid that it’s no longer able to function normally. Construction workers, roofers, day laborers, and others who perform heavy labor outside are particularly susceptible to dehydration.
Dehydration causes serious health risks, and it’s often fatal. Over 500,000 Americans are hospitalized for dehydration every year. Dehydration impairs your physical and mental abilities, dramatically increasing the chances that a worker will make a hazardous mistake. Symptoms include:
- Reduced concentration
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen feet
- Muscle cramps
- Reduced blood pressure
The “Death Star” Law in Texas
The new Texas law prohibits local authorities from requiring businesses to provide regular water breaks. It strikes down existing laws in Austen, Dallas, and other cities. Municipalities in Texas are also prohibited from passing similar laws in the future.
The Texas state measures eliminating water breaks are part of legislation referred to by local commenters as the “Death Star” law. The law was signed by the Governor on June 6, and it became effective on September 1, 2023. The Death Star law was enacted in the name of removing so-called “burdensome regulations.”
Federal Water Break Laws
There are only limited safeguards to prevent employers in New York from denying water breaks to employees. OSHA doesn’t have a minimum water break rule, and federal regulations are vague, only stating that employers must allow workers “reasonable opportunities” to drink water during their shifts.
OSHA requires employers to provide clean and readily accessible water for drinking and washing food and food-related hygiene to all employees. OSHA also requires employers to inform employees why it’s important to drink water, especially on hot days.
Were You Injured on the Job?
If you were injured on a construction site, contact the experienced New York construction accident attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP. We help ensure injured construction workers get the compensation they need to cover their medical bills and other expenses, such as lost income.
Our New York lawyers are recognized by the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and listed in the Best Lawyers directory. We’ve won over $1 billion in claims and lawsuits for our clients.
Call (212) 986-7353 to schedule a FREE case evaluation today.