President Joe Biden has asked the Department of Labor to issue the first ever hazard alert for heat in response to the heat wave plaguing the American southwest.
Extreme heat has been recorded in citing across the southern United States, including Florida, Texas, and Arizona, with little to no relief after the sun goes down. Phoenix recorded seven consecutive days of temperatures of 110 or more by mid-July while Death Valley reached 126 degrees on July 2. The heat is potentially dangerous to those without access to air conditioning.
Biden traveled to Arizona to meet with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg to discuss his administration’s plan to assist those affected by the extreme heat.
“We also have a number of programs to do everything from – allow people to have the ability to get help, to literally paint their roofs white, to change their windows and doors and get tax credits for doing it so heat – so air conditioning doesn’t escape,” Biden said at the press conference.
Biden said the programs would help Americans “as we get by this worst part” and allow the federal government to “invest in the communities” so the effects of extreme heat are not as bad “next time it occurs.”
NEW – Biden says help for painting roofs white is underway at a press conference on "extreme heat" and "combating the climate crisis."pic.twitter.com/VJSBZGYJYw
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) July 27, 2023
“For years, heat has been the number one cause of weather-related deaths in America. And workers, including farmworkers, farmers, firefighters, and construction workers, are disproportionately impacted by extreme heat,” the White House said in a statement released on July 27. “The Hazard Alert will reaffirm that workers have heat-related protections under federal law. As part of the alert, the Department of Labor will provide information on what employers can and should be doing now to protect their workers, help ensure employees are aware of their rights, including protections against retaliation, and highlight the steps the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently taking to protect workers.”
The Biden administration estimates that 400 workers die each year as a result of environmental heat exposure.
Biden has asked the DOL to “amp up enforcement of heat-safety violations, increasing inspections in high-risk industries like construction and agriculture” and directed OSHA to “develop a national standard for workplace heat-safety rules.”
The White House said the announcement was part of the president’s ongoing effort to address climate change and said that the “Biden-Harris Administration has continued to deliver on the most ambitious climate agenda in American history—an agenda that is lowering energy costs for hardworking families, bolstering America’s energy security, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, and strengthening community-driven climate resilience across the country.”
States impacted by this year’s heat wave have spent the majority of the summer adjusting to record-high temperatures.
“The heat in the region is being intensified by a delayed start to monsoon season, which runs from June 15 to Sept. 30 on average,” reports The Washington Post. “Often, monsoons draw moisture and bring clouds and storms into the Southwest, putting a cap on temperatures by mid-July.”
OSHA requires employers whose workers may be at risk of prolonged heat exposure to train employees to take preventative actions, be aware of the risks, and understand first aid protocol. The agency warns that symptoms of heat illness include abnormal thinking or behavior, slurred speech, seizures, or loss of consciousness and that anyone experiencing these symptoms should not be left alone.