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Biden Introduces New Heat Protections For Workers

Much of the country experienced excessive heat during the first week of July. President Biden proposed a new rule to protect workers from these increasingly hot temperatures. If the rule becomes final, it will protect about 36 million U.S. workers, including farmworkers, delivery drivers, construction workers, landscapers, and indoor workers in warehouses, factories, and kitchens. The earliest the rule could become final is 2026.

Under the rule, employers must implement simple protective measures that could save lives, including providing cool water and a place to rest when heat and humidity levels reach 80 degrees. New workers should receive time for their bodies to adjust to working in that kind of heat. When the heat and humidity reach 90 degrees, the rule requires 15-minute paid rest breaks for all employees after two hours. Supervisors must check in individuals working alone every so often. The same rules apply whether the laborers work inside or outside. Employers must also train employees and supervisors on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. These proposals align with recommendations from the CDC. Only five states have temperature protections for workers. Texas and Florida forbid cities from requiring water and rest breaks for workers because of heat.

In announcing the rule, Biden pointed out that “ignoring climate change is deadly, dangerous, and irresponsible.” He noted that more people die from extreme heat than “floods, hurricanes and tornados combined.” According to The Washington Post, OSHA has ignored calls to institute new rules to protect workers from heat. High temperatures killed approximately 815 workers and injured 70,000 between 1992 and 2017. Climate change has dramatically increased the heat we all experience, with temperature records already beat this summer. Should Donald Trump win the upcoming election, he has already said he will roll back climate protections as he does not believe the scientific consensus that fossil fuel burning leads to increased temperatures.