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City council makes unanimous decision to provide crucial safety protections for its outdoor workers: 'This ... will change my life'

"This is a crucial step toward prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our essential workers."

"This is a crucial step towards prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our essential workers."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Phoenix, Arizona city council has passed a landmark rule that will provide safety protections for thousands of workers who deal with extreme heat.

Late last month the Phoenix city council passed an ordinance by unanimous vote that requires employers to provide cool drinking water, regular and necessary breaks, access to shaded areas and/or air conditioning, and training for all city contractors and employees.

"Heat-related deaths in Phoenix as reported by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health have risen substantially since 2014, to a new record high of 395 during 2023, the hottest summer in the City's history," the summary of the ordinance read.

Phoenix, which is home to over 1.6 million people, is the hottest city in America, according to AccuWeather. Temperatures climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit regularly from the end of May to the middle of September. In 2023, Phoenix experienced 31 straight days of temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

"People who work outside and in hot indoor environments in Phoenix suffer unacceptably during our deadly summers, with too few protections," said Katelyn Parady, a Phoenix-based worker health and safety advocate

"Heat mitigation and respite is essential to life in Phoenix, and this is a crucial step toward prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our essential workers," said councilwoman Laura Pastor, per the Guardian.

The yearly average temperature has increased at a faster rate since 1981 across North America as a result of human-driven global heating. And it continues to get hotter, with March 2024 being confirmed as the hottest March on record. 

The World Health Organization says more than 166,000 people have died due to extreme heat temperatures from 1998-2017. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat as an underlying cause of death is at its highest rate in at least two decades.

With protections like this ordinance, we can create a safer work environment for workers across the country, including for people of color who are disproportionately impacted by extreme heat. 

Other innovations and decisions, like Texas companies switching to solar energy to power homes during heat waves, can help us save money and cut harmful plant-warming pollution from dirty energy

"Well done, Phoenix!!" the Environmental Voter Project posted.

"This heat safety ordinance will change my life and the lives of my coworkers," said Filiberto Lares, a worker at LSG Sky Chefs.

"We're going to keep organizing until all workers have strong protection from heat — because everyone works under the same blazing sun," said Parady.

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