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Biden announces new plan to protect workers from extreme heat

The Biden administration is putting forward the first federal workplace rules on extreme heat, following a searing summer that has highlighted the dangers of heat, the biggest weather-related killer in the US.

On Monday, the White House said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the department of labor, will start a new rule-making process to assign a heat standard for American workers, as well as oversee the enforcement of the new requirement. This will likely take the form of increased breaks or complete work shutdowns when the heat reaches certain thresholds.

The White House also said it will look to bolster efforts to improve tree cover in cities and help support cooling centers for people living in places that have to deal with dangerously high temperatures.

Around 1,300 people die in the US from excess heat each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with outdoor workers, such as people who work in construction, at particular risk from high temperatures. Dangerous conditions are becoming more frequent due to the human-caused climate crisis. This summer was marginally hotter than the record Dust Bowl summer of 1936, federal government scientists confirmed last week.

“My administration will not leave Americans to face this threat alone,” Biden said in a statement. “Today, I am mobilizing an all-of-government effort to protect workers, children, seniors, and at-risk communities from extreme heat.”

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