Extreme Temperatures Force US Government To Roll out New Safety Precautions for Outdoor Workers

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jul 02, 2024

The federal government has finally implemented a long-awaited proposal to protect outdoor workers during extreme summer temperatures.

If the measure is passed, the rule will help establish the first-ever federal safety standard for excessive heat exposure in the workplace. Currently, states set rules for working safety standards and conditions. Hopefully, this plan will protect as many as 36 million workers from heat-related injuries.

New Measures Announced Alongside Heat Warnings

The new measure was announced on Tuesday alongside news of heatwaves and extreme heat across the country.

A group of construction workers wearing high vis PPE stand on an unfinished site

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The rule would force all employers to establish heat safety coordinators, undergo elevated heat safety training, and create regular updates during emergency heat waves. It will also task any company with outdoor employees to provide ample shade and water.

Employers Will Be Required To Have a Heat Acclimation Process

Currently, three out of four workers who die from heat at work succumb to their injuries during the first week on the job.

A man wearing a blue jumpsuit works in a large garden

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The measure will also make employers create a heat acclimatization process so that new employees can gradually become accustomed to working hard in warmer temperatures.

Special Protection for Intense Heat

Special safeguards for extreme heat will also be implemented. When the heat index in a workplace breaks 80 degrees Fahrenheit, employers will be tasked with providing access to water and temperature-controlled break rooms.

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As well, when the heat reaches 90F, additional protections will be added, such as paid 15-minute breaks every two hours and mandated observation of employees and hazard alerts.

Fines for Employers That Do Not Comply

In addition to the additional ruling, employers who fail to meet the minimum safety standards could be subject to heavy fines.

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s general duty clause states that any workplace that displays dangerous levels of heat stress can be subject to penalties of $16,000 per infraction.

Extreme Heat Is Becoming a Health Issue

In the coming years, summer heat will only continue to rise. Most experts assume that the rising temperatures caused by global warming will begin to affect public health.

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Each year, more people are suffering from heat-related deaths. Although the issue is currently relegated to warmer countries like Asia and India, more people die every year in Western countries. Experts and scientists fear that the problem will continue to get worse.


Advocates Celebrated the Move

Policymakers who pushed for the new ruling celebrated the news. Representative Greg Casar of Texas went on an all-day thirst strike last year, calling for better heat protections for workers in the country.

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Upon hearing the news Casar said, “For decades, workers have been organizing for federal protections from the extreme heat. Despite opposition from big corporations, these working families are finally winning the protections they deserve.”


Extreme Heat Is the Silent Killer

Just last week, two French women and an American man died after becoming lost on a short hike on a small Greek island during a summer holiday. The scorching summer temperatures reached well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and authorities were forced to call off the search party after days of extreme weather.

A group of people stand on the beach next to a green tinted sky

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Hundreds of Americans die from extreme heat every year, and many call it the silent killer.


Workers Die Every Year From Unsafe Conditions

Each year, dozens of workers die during times of prolonged heat exposure in the workplace. Federal data shows 436 deaths between 2011 and 2021.

A group pf people stand on the street next to palm trees during a heat wave

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However, this estimate could be conservative. Oftentimes, people wind up in the hospital a day or two after suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion, so it can be difficult to track work-related injuries.


The Measure Will Override State Rules

The new ruling will be implemented federally and will immediately override any safety measures in place by specific states.

Two men fishing off a pier in extreme heat

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Texas and Florida have passed laws that prevent municipalities from adopting workplace heat safety measures. Florida especially fights against even discussing climate change and many say that the new rules are absolutely necessary to protect agriculture workers in the state.


Fears that Trump Would Dismantle the Ruling

Although the measure is a massive leap for worker protection in the U.S., many democrats fear that if Donald Trump is reelected this November, he will immediately dismantle the project.

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The ruling will likely face legal challenges from business and lobbying groups that staunchly oppose federal oversight of private businesses.


The EPA Is Backing the Changes Will a New Report

The Environmental Protection Agency will release a new report on Tuesday showing the far-reaching effects of global warming and climate-related disasters on US communities.

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The report will attempt to sway any lawmakers on the fence about the realities and dangers of extreme heat.