Energy & Environment

Biden administration to develop standard protecting workers from extreme heat

Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Monday announced it is developing a workplace standard aimed at preventing illness and death from heat exposure. 

The White House said in a fact sheet that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to propose a rule on heat illness prevention in the workplace. 

It did not specify what exactly the rule would entail, instead saying that the department is seeking “diverse perspectives and technical expertise” on topics like heat stress thresholds and monitoring exposure. 

Currently, there’s not a standard in place to protect workers in extreme heat.

In the U.S. there’s an annual average of 702 heat-related deaths and 9,235 hospitalizations because of heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the standard is being developed, local OSHA offices will put additional resources toward heat-related complaints and expand their scope of inspections for heat-related hazards, the White House said.

In addition to the standard, OSHA is also developing a program that will devote resources and staff to heat inspections in high-risk industries.

And it will form a “Heat Illness Prevention Work Group” aimed at better understanding challenges and best practices for protecting workers from heat hazards.

“While we have all seen the graphic and heart-wrenching images of super-storms, wildfires, and floods in recent weeks, another climate disaster is lurking just below the radar: extreme heat,” President Biden said in a statement.

“Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements, to kids in schools without air conditioning, to seniors in nursing homes without cooling resources, and particularly to disadvantaged communities,” he added. “My Administration will not leave Americans to face this threat alone.”

The steps come after several extreme heat periods in the U.S. this year, including a searing heatwave in the Pacific Northwest earlier this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently found that July of this year was Earth’s hottest month ever recorded.

And a major United Nations report last month warned of more frequent hot extremes as among the impacts that will become more severe as the planet continues to heat up.

Specifically, it said that for every additional half-degree Celsius of warming, there will be “clearly discernible” increases in the intensity and frequency of heat extremes.

–Updated at 9:40 a.m.

Tags biden administration heat exposure Joe Biden Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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