Biden Pushes for Extreme Heat Safety Rule
The new OSHA rule would protect workers from injuries due to extreme heat conditions
The White House announced Monday that it plans to develop a federal rule that will require employers to keep workers safe from extreme heat, something workplace safety advocates have sought for years.
The rule will be crafted by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and will apply to both indoor and outdoor workplaces, the White House said. The administration did not release details on what requirements the rule will include, saying it will take the first steps in the rule-making process in October.
President Joe Biden issued a statement saying he was “mobilizing the administration to address extreme heat,” noting that heat waves brought record temperatures this summer to areas like the Pacific Northwest, where hundreds of people died.
“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,” the president said.
A federal heat standard set by OSHA would be significant for several reasons. It would lay out in clear detail what an employer’s obligations are in protecting workers from high heat and give the agency stronger ground from which to issue fines. It would also set minimum requirements in every state, most of which have no occupational rules when it comes to heat.
David Michaels, who ran OSHA under former President Barack Obama, said the announcement could immediately make workers safer by changing employers’ expectations.
“Employers have a more clear understanding of what they need to do and what’s required of them,” he said of creating an OSHA rule. “But the fact that OSHA has said very clearly that they’re moving toward a heat standard also will have a significant impact. Employers realize when a standard is being planned and they start to respond even before the standard is issued.”