Home USA News Proposed Workplace Rule by Biden Administration Aims to Address Extreme Heat

Proposed Workplace Rule by Biden Administration Aims to Address Extreme Heat

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Amid sweltering temperatures affecting tens of millions across the U.S., the Biden administration unveiled a new proposal on Tuesday aimed at safeguarding workers from excessive heat in the workplace.

The proposed rule, if enacted, would establish the first comprehensive federal safety standard addressing heat-related risks for approximately 36 million U.S. workers. This includes farmworkers, construction laborers, delivery personnel, landscapers, as well as indoor workers in warehouses, factories, and kitchens.

President Joe Biden is set to highlight the initiative on Tuesday during a briefing on extreme weather, emphasizing the urgency of protecting workers as temperatures soar.

Despite growing awareness of the health hazards posed by high temperatures, protections for workers exposed to heat indices above 80 degrees Fahrenheit have been inadequate.

Key provisions of the proposed rule require employers to identify heat hazards, develop emergency response plans for heat-related illnesses, and provide comprehensive training to employees and supervisors on recognizing symptoms. Additionally, employers must implement measures like scheduled rest breaks, shaded areas, adequate water supply, and acclimatization protocols for new employees to build tolerance to heat.

Penalties for violations related to heat protection in workplaces would see significant increases, aligning with penalties issued for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations, according to a senior White House official.

In 2023 alone, an estimated 2,300 heat-related deaths occurred in the U.S., with workers exposed to prolonged heat being particularly vulnerable to heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As temperatures continue to rise, particularly during the peak summer months, the risk of heat strokes, dehydration, and other heat-related health issues escalates for millions of Americans.

Since 2021, the Labor Department, with input from OSHA, has been developing standards to address heat exposure in workplaces, including discussions last year on the potential impact of these measures on small businesses.

Although several states, such as California, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, and Washington, have implemented their own workplace heat protection standards, federal efforts have faced opposition from industry groups and some Republican-led states. The Biden administration’s proposal would supersede existing state regulations, requiring states with current standards to adopt federal measures at least as stringent as those finalized.

Amidst escalating concerns over climate change exacerbating heat levels nationwide, the Biden administration’s move seeks to establish uniform protections for workers across diverse industries facing increasing heat-related risks.