Texas is hot. The Lone Star state is one of several southern U.S. states caught in a heat wave that has introduced dangerous triple-digit temperatures. In fact, more than 90 record-high temperatures from Texas to Missouri to Florida could be broken this week.
The life-threatening heat is especially dangerous for construction workers, glaziers and other tradespeople susceptible to extreme temperatures. Amid an annual increase in summer temperatures, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot recently signed a bill to end local rules mandating water breaks for construction workers.
House Bill 2127
Abbot signed House Bill 2127 on June 13, 2023, which targeted mandated water breaks ordered by the city of Austin in 2010 and Dallas in 2015. The law takes effect in September 2023. Various local laws required construction workers to take a 10-minute break every four hours to drink water and protect themselves from the sun.
House Bill 2127 ends those measures and prevents other Texas cities from passing similar laws. The bill’s passage comes despite Texas reporting the most worker deaths to heat exposure in a 10-year span, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau states that at least 42 workers died in Texas between 2011 and 2021 from environmental heat exposure. Furthermore, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports that at least 279 heat-related deaths were recorded in the state in 2022, the highest annual toll since 1999.
Geoffrey Tahuahua, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas, told the Texas Tribune that mandated water breaks were not a one-size-fits-all answer. He believes local rules are too rigid and do not allow the flexibility to tailor breaks to individual jobsite conditions.
“These ordinances just add confusion and encourage people to do the minimum instead of doing the right thing,” says Tahuahua.
David Michaels, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 2009 to 2017, says HB 2127 proponents are misguided. He told the Tribune that while OSHA law ensures employers are responsible for worker safety, OSHA has “compelling evidence that [employers] are doing a very poor job because many workers are injured on the job, especially in Texas.”
According to Momentum Glass CEO Omar Maalouf, Abbot’s decision to end mandated water breaks has no impact on the Spring, Texas-based contract glazier. He says the company always provides water, Gatorade and even electrolyte freezer pops. The company also encourages multiple daily breaks to ensure employees remain refreshed.
Haley-Greer’s executive vice president Jason Wroblewski concurs. He says removing mandated water breaks does not impact the Dallas-based contract glazier. He adds the company supplies water to all field crews, and water breaks are frequent to keep teams safe from the heat.
“It is a top priority, especially during Texas summers, that our field crews remain hydrated throughout the workday,” he says.