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Statement: Biden’s National Heat Stress Standard Is Welcomed and Desperately Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration today announced a multi-pronged effort to protect workers from heat stress, including the initiation of the process to create a federal heat standard. The cross-agency initiative will include a national emphasis program for heat inspections targeting key industries, greater employer education and enforcement actions, better heat illness reporting data, identifying and addressing disproportionate heat impacts, home energy assistance and community cooling stations that will add an additional resource for workers. Public Citizen has petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for years for a national heat stress standard. Juley Fulcher, worker health and safety advocate at Public Citizen, released the following statement in support of the initiative:

“Public Citizen enthusiastically supports the Biden administration’s broad, cross-agency action to address heat stress in the U.S. This action is long overdue. Now it’s incumbent on the administration to rush to get a final heat standard in place to ensure workers across the country are able to safely do their jobs protected from the danger of heat stress.

“Heat stress is one of the most dangerous hazards for millions of workers. Excessive temperatures can cause heatstroke and death, and repetitive heat exhaustion and dehydration can lead to long-term damage to the body.

“Black and Brown communities, especially farmworkers, are disproportionately subjected to work in extreme heat resulting in more heat stress illnesses, injuries and death. We are delighted to see the initiatives focus on understanding and addressing the issue. Additionally, unprogrammed inspections and employer education will create safer environments for all workers.

“We particularly applaud the administration’s multi-agency, collaborative approach and the action’s emphasis on enforcement and better worker illness data tracking. Climate change due to global greenhouse gas pollution is dramatically increasing this workplace hazard and inclusion of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the collaborative effort is critical.

“Daily work in high heat can be particularly dangerous if the body isn’t able to sufficiently recover overnight in cool conditions. We applaud the plan to leverage funding for community cooling centers and home energy assistance that are vital to ensuring workers are able to reduce their body heat and prevent heat illness between shifts, particularly for low-income workers.”