Anticipating more dangerously hot summers to come, the Biden administration on Monday proposed the first-ever workplace safety standards designed to protect workers from extreme heat.
The interagency initiative aims to mitigate occupational heat exposure of outdoor workers, such as those in agriculture, construction and delivery, as well as those who work indoors in hot locations, including including factories, warehouses and kitchens, according to a White House fact sheet.
In a statement outlining the plan, the White House noted that climate-related disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and floods produce dramatic images, but extreme heat is actually the leading cause of weather-related death. from the country.
The heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in June, for example, left hundreds of people dead and thousands of emergency room visits. Millions of workers are exposed to intense heat in their workplaces, and black and brown workers are disproportionately exposed, according to the White House proposal.
Earlier this year, restaurant workers held rallies across the West to call on employers to fix faulty air conditioning units, which created unsafe temperatures in restaurant kitchens.
As part of the proposal, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will initiate a rule-making process to develop a workplace heat standard to protect workers in indoor and outdoor environments. A proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register next month for public comment.
In the meantime, the agency says it has tools to start enforcing worker protection in dangerously hot environments, especially when temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
OSHA plans to develop a national program to focus on heat risk cases for high-risk industries – which is expected to take place before next summer – which will likely build on an existing regional program for heat-related illnesses. in the heat in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The proposal did not specify which industries could be targeted.
OSHA will also form a Heat Illness Prevention Working Group to better understand the challenges and best practices to protect workers from heat-related hazards.
The Biden administration is also working with various health agencies to collect better data on the impact of extreme heat episodes to better coordinate the federal response and better protect vulnerable communities. Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan also provides related funding to support response and forecasting of heat events.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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