Biden Tackles Extreme Heat In Workplace With New Initiatives

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The heat wave forced people to take shelter in cooling stations like this one in Portland, Oregon
The heat wave forced people to take shelter in cooling stations like this one in Portland, Oregon

President Biden announced on Monday a coordinated effort to respond to the effects of extreme heat. It will highlight the importance of tackling extreme heat in the workplace and communities through multi-agency initiatives.

The coordination of agencies is meant to “enhance workplace safety, build local resilience, and address disproportionate heat impacts,” according to the White House fact sheet.

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

Extreme heat has become the number one weather-related cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service. From late June to mid-July, record temperatures affected much of the Pacific Northwest and killed an estimated 1,260 people.

Biden explained that six federal agencies will come together to create “initiatives” for companies to follow that will focus on protecting vulnerable populations as rising global temperatures become more prevalent. 

The agencies will include the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Department of Labor will put focus on occupational heat exposure on how to protect outdoor workers, including agricultural, construction, and delivery workers, as well as indoor workers, including those in warehouses, factories, and kitchens, according to the White House.

The new initiative will also protect indoor workers without climate-controlled environments.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to launch a rulemaking process next month that will develop a workplace heat standard on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The rule process will focus on heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, and exposure monitoring. 

There are also plans for new enforcement that would require “heat-related” interventions and workplace inspections on days in which temperatures exceed 80 degrees. 

Biden also plans to protect communities from extreme heat by, "provide cooling assistance to households; use schools as cooling centers; launch a heat resilience innovation challenge; address social vulnerabilities and disproportionate impacts; reduce urban heat through tree cover; and improve local preparedness through data-sharing," according to White House. 

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