President Biden has directed labor officials to draft laws that will protect workers under extreme heat conditions. The directive comes months after a hot summer, in which several workers were reported dead due to extreme heat. The severity of heatwaves has been on the rise, thanks to climate change.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been asked by the president to develop the new guidelines. The guidelines aim to protect workers threatened by heatwaves, such as construction, farm, and delivery workers. Further, regulations will also cater to the safety of indoor workers in places such as warehouses where there is no air conditioning.
Biden said in a statement that his administration seeks to address the impacts of extreme weather experienced by minority groups across the country. “Over the past few weeks, I have traveled across the country to see firsthand the devastating human and economic toll of extreme weather exacerbated by climate change,” 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.”
Last summer, record-breaking heatwaves rocked the Pacific Northwest, leading to the death of at least two people. Other climate-related disasters, such as the storms in New York and Louisiana, were also recorded across the country.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43 workers died in 2019 from heat-related illnesses. Due to such realities, employee rights advocates have been calling for laws that protect workers against the effects of extreme heat and other weather disasters.
If formulated, the new OSHA rules would include breaks requirements and access to drinking water and shade. These laws would be applied when temperatures reach a certain threshold deemed dangerous for workers. Some states, such as California and Oregon, already have some laws to protect workers. These include rules forcing employers to provide cool water, shade and breaks.
Lead image via U.S. Department of Agriculture