Biden proposes new standards to protect workers in heat (2024)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday declared that those who deny climate change are either “really dumb” or have an ulterior motive as he unveiled a new proposed rule that would establish the nation’s first major federal safety standard for those working in excessive heat.

What You Need To Know

  • President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new proposed rule aimed at better protecting about 36 million people working in extreme heat
  • The rule would require employers with qualifying workers to establish a heat injuiruy and illness plan, including establishing a heat safety coordinator, monitor heat exposure to employees and meet training and record keeping standards
  • The announcement coincided with Biden’s trip Tuesday to the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management, where he received an operational briefing from officials from the National Weather Service, Homeland Security Department and FEMA on the latest weather forecast for the summer and preparations already underway to respond to natural disasters
  • As part of the president’s briefing on Tuesday, FEMA is also announcing nearly $1 billion in in awards for 656 projects to help communities prepare for disasters like heat, stroms and flooding

The rule, which aims to protect about 36 million people, would require employers with qualifying workers to establish a heat injury and illness plan, including tapping a heat safety coordinator, monitor heat exposure to employees and meet training and record keeping standards.

Biden announced the plan on Tuesday during a trip to the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management, where he received an operational briefing from officials from the National Weather Service, Homeland Security Department and FEMA on the latest weather forecast for the summer and preparations already underway to respond to natural disasters.

It came as the nation – fresh off of a wave of scorching temperatures last month – braces for above-normal heat in July.

“Summer has just started – already, already tens of millions of Americans are under heat warnings from record shattering temperatures,” Biden said on Tuesday, listing cities that have already seen temperatures at 100 degrees or above, including Washington, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

“Above normal temperatures are also expected for much of the country in July, especially in central and eastern United States,” he continued.

The president noted that extreme heat is the “number one weather-related killer in the United States,” stressing it tops those killed from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

More than 2,000 people died from heat-related illness in the U.S. last year, according to the Associated Press.

The new rule his administration proposed on Tuesday includes an “initial trigger” of 80 degrees Fahrenheit – a threshold that would mandate employers provide access to drinking water and a break area to cool down. They would also need to keep regular communication with employees as well as implement a plan to help workers adjust to the heat, allowing for a gradual increase in workload or breaks every two hours, an administrational official said.

Under the “high heat trigger” of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, employers would be required to implement four additional elements. These include paid 15-minute rest breaks for workers every two hours, observation of employees for symptoms, a check-in with employees working alone every two hours and a hazard alert reminding workers to drink water and taking breaks.

Biden on Tuesday also announced that FEMA is awarding nearly $1 billion for 656 projects to help communities prepare for disasters like heat, storms and flooding.

In his remarks, the president criticized Republicans for “trying to undo” the progress he said he has made in addressing a changing climate, calling it “not only outrageous” but “really stupid.”

“They still deny climate change even exists – they deny climate change even exists, they must be living in a hole somewhere,” Biden said.

“Everyone who willfully denies the impacts of climate change is condemning the American people to a dangerous future and either is really, really dumb or has some other motive,” he continued.

Senior administration officials noted to reporters on a call to preview Tuesday’s announcement that the country is already grappling with the impacts of extreme weather this summer, pointing to recent fires in New Mexico, Oregon and California and flooding in Iowa and Minnesota.

One official said that the administration has already responded to dozens of disasters this year and is expecting 10 more major disaster declarations in 2024 compared to 2023.

The briefing also came as Hurricane Beryl – the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record – is barreling through the Caribbean. The early, intense storm has only stoked fears about the hurricane season to come.

”Ignoring climate change is deadly and dangerous and irresponsible,” Biden said on Tuesday, noting that climate-fueled extreme weather also hurts the economy and takes a psychological toll on people.

Biden on Tuesday also noted he will gather state, local and Tribal leaders at the White House later this summer for a summit on extreme heat.

Biden proposes new standards to protect workers in heat (2024)
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