The Biden administration has announced that it is developing a federal standard to protect workers from the effects of extreme heat. This follows a summer of record-breaking temperatures.
According to the White House, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is set to begin drafting the federal standard designed to prevent heat-related illness and death especially in the restaurant, agriculture, and meatpacking industries.
Despite years of demands from both lawmakers and people on the ground as well as research linking extreme heat and workplace injuries, OSHA does not yet have a standard in place.
While a few states have put their own measures in place, Florida has failed to do so. This state is the second-largest producer of vegetables in the country. Farmworkers carry out their duties in a heat index higher than 83 degrees on 100 days or more each year.
Former chief of staff at OSHA during the Obama administration, Debbie Berkowitz, OSHA could get the standard out in a timely manner if the White House pushes the effort and provides the necessary resources.
While work is ongoing to draft a rule, the White House said OSHA would take interim steps to protect workers in the short term. When the heat index exceeds 80 degrees, “heat-related interventions and workplace inspections” would be prioritized.
OSHA is also creating a National Emphasis Program which will increase the staff and resources deployed to inspect job sites with a high risk of heat injury. There will also be a Heat Illness Prevention Work Group designed to increase understanding of the challenges and best practices associated with protecting employees from heat injuries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, 43 people died because of work-related environmental heat exposure. Meanwhile, 2, 410 other workers suffered serious heat-related injuries and illnesses.
If you suffer a workplace injury or illness, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a Florida workers’ compensation attorney for advice.