Aiming to prevent heat-related deaths and illnesses, the Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved a measure requiring construction companies to give their employees a 10-minute rest break every four hours.
Dallas will join only Austin in often-sweltering Texas to mandate breaks at construction sites.
Pushed by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project, the 10-5 vote followed the death last July of Roendy Granillo, who suffered from heat stroke while installing hardwood flooring in Melissa, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas.
Granillo's family said the 25-year-old was denied a water break.
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“My brother’s death is one too many,” the worker’s 11-year-old sister Jasmine Granillo told the council Wednesday.
Industry representatives and other critics argued that the policy could be costly for construction firms and difficult to enforce, and they suggested that workplace safety falls more squarely in the domain of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration than of Dallas lawmakers.
The new law also requires construction sites to put up signs explaining the measure's provisions. Violators could be fined up to $500.
Heat typically kills several Texas workers every year. At least seven workers across all industries died from heat-related causes in Texas through this summer, according to data collected by OSHA. (The agency admits its data is far from comprehensive.)
Federal law doesn’t require rest breaks, but some states do. California, Nevada and Kentucky are among those mandating paid 10-minute breaks every four hours in many industries. Employers in Texas, however, do not even have to give their workers meal breaks under the law.
A five-year-old law in Austin, however, requires 10 minutes of rest every three-and-a-half hours at construction sites.
Officials there have said firms are generally following the requirement, and fewer workers are complaining about not getting breaks.