Biden seeks to increase protection for workers and communities


WASHINGTON – The Biden government is writing new workplace rules to protect farm workers, Construction workers and others from extreme heat, an increasing problem in a warming world.

Heat is the country’s leading weather-related killer, the White House said on Monday as it announced several measures, including developing a new heat standard for workplaces.

Additionally, a new enforcement initiative will prioritize inspections if the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. High risk industries are addressed through a National Heat Inspection Priority Program due to take effect before next summer.

Only three states – California, Washington, and Minnesota – have permanent rules and regulations protecting farm workers from extreme heat.

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Efforts to expand the cooling programs

Other steps announced by the government aim to protect communities from extreme heat, including children in schools without air conditioning and seniors in nursing homes with no cooling resources.

For example, next month the Environmental Protection Agency plans to select local partners to develop neighborhood cooling centers within existing public school facilities.

Changes to a federal energy aid program for low-income households allow states to expand the program to include air conditioning purchases, increase payments for cooling support for utility bills, setting up cooling centers, and more.

The Department of Homeland Security is launching a series of prize competitions, the first of which challenges participants to find new ways to protect people from extreme heat events or related to other disasters.

“This is a blinking red code for our nation,” said President Joe Biden of the increase in extreme weather events.

Scientists announced the deadly and record breaking heat wave in parts of the western United States and Canada this summer would have been “almost impossible” without the influence of climate change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Heat and Health Tracker is releasing a nationwide heat forecast for October this week.

Oregon efforts

Oregon OSHA has general requirements for water, shade, and access to high temperature breaks, but proponents say these standards are difficult to enforce because they lack specificity.

The state authority has been in the Process of developing specific permanent rules around water, shade and access to breaks, a process that is expected to be completed in October.

During the record breaking June heat wave, Sebastian Francisco Perez, a 38-year-old kindergarten teacher who recently arrived from Guatemala, collapsed in a field at Ernst Nursery & Farms in St. Paul and died One day the temperature exceeded 100 degrees.

Workers’ representatives had said workers were at risk of heat exhaustion and heat illness and asked Oregon OSHA to put in place temporary emergency rules in advance of the heat wave, but the agency did not.

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Two weeks later, Oregon OSHA has adopted temporary rules, under an executive order from Governor Kate Brown.

The temporary rules are always activated when the heat index (how the temperature feels taking into account the humidity) exceeds 80 degrees, with an additional set of rules if the heat index is more than 90 degrees.

Some Oregon labor lawyers said: While the rules are still imperfect, they are probably the most protective heat standards in the US right now.

Employers must keep one or more shaded areas easily accessible from workplaces, provide at least 32 ounces of cool / cold drinking water per hour, and provide employees and supervisors with information on signs of heat illness, the employer’s obligations in the event of extreme temperatures, and the rights of workers train and protect against retaliation for reporting violations of these rules.

When the heat index is above 90 degrees, employers must provide their employees with a mandatory 10-minute paid break in the shade every two hours, develop acclimatization plans for employees to adapt to the heat, and find ways to monitor and have employees to communicate to them.

Employers can either set up a mandatory buddy system or communicate by phone or radio to screen individuals working alone.

Employers must also prepare an emergency medical plan in case someone shows signs of heat illness.

Sales representative from community-based organizations serving farm workers and government agencies have spent the summer educating workers about how to spot the signs of heat illness, the protection the temporary regulations offer, and what to do if employers fail to comply.

More:The heat wave in the west ‘practically impossible’ without climate change


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