Biden Admin Trying to Address Heat-Related Deaths at Workplace

Workers’ deaths due to heat exhaustion have been a pressing public health issue for over two years, and a team of government health specialists, economists, and attorneys has been working to find a solution.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is anticipated to propose a new regulation in the coming months that would compel companies to safeguard an estimated 50 million workers who are exposed to high temperatures while they work. 

The OSHA team consists of about 30 individuals. The protected groups encompass not just those who work on farms and in construction but also those who clean airline cabins, sort shipments in warehouses, and prepare food in commercial kitchens.

This bill would safeguard workers against dangerously high temperatures in the workplace, marking a first for the federal government. Some business and industry organizations are likely to oppose laws that would demand additional breaks and, in some situations, access to shade, air conditioning, and water, so there will be significant pushback.

Experts agree that the government’s emergency response system isn’t up to the task, even if the regulation is implemented.

With temperatures already climbing quickly across the Sun Belt, scientists are predicting another record-breaking summer following last year’s record-breaking heat. Last weekend, Miami’s heat index hit 112 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the hottest day on record by 11 degrees.

Dr. John M. Balbus, the deputy assistant secretary for climate change and health equality at the Health and Human Services Department, stated that the spike in heat-related mortality is currently the most pressing concern about human health as it pertains to climate change.

In 2023, heat-related deaths in the US reached an anticipated 2,300, which is three times the yearly average from 2004 to 2018. Because of the way reasons for death are listed on death certificates, researchers believe that all of those estimates are likely undercounts.

In response, President Biden has sought action, appointing Dr. Balbus as the first high-ranking official to address the effects of climate change on human health.

Republican strategists said in interviews that if former president Donald J. Trump were to return to the White House, Mr. Biden’s attempts to address the excessive heat connected to climate change would likely be undone.