Employees in the U.S. are working in tougher conditions due to extreme heat, but protection may not be forthcoming because of blocking measures by businesses and lobbyists.
As the Earth overheats, rising temperatures across the United States have made life extremely difficult for outdoor workers.
In California, Arizona, and Nevada, temperatures reached triple digits in July, and a temperature of 128 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in Death Valley was close to the highest temperature ever recorded (134 degrees Fahrenheit).
In 2021, 36 people died because of environmental heat exposure, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since 2011, that figure stands at 436 deaths.
According to the Guardian, there are no federal laws to protect employees from extreme heat, despite advocacy groups and farmworkers pushing to make that happen.
The Biden Administration is also trying to enforce standards alongside the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Why has setting rules been so difficult?
Big businesses and work federations have blocked or protested a number of attempts to improve conditions and make work safer for employees.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, for example, questioned “whether the department can develop additional heat illness regulations without imposing new, onerous burdens on farmers and ranchers that will lead to economic losses,” per the Guardian.
What’s being done to help the workers?
OSHA is continuing its efforts to make work safer. As published in the Guardian, the agency’s assistant secretary Doug Parker said in a statement: “Every worker is entitled to a safe and healthy workplace, and we will continue to use all the tools in our toolbox to ensure all workers have the health and safety protections they need and deserve in every workplace.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 members of Congress signed a letter in July addressed to the U.S. Department of Labor calling for federal regulation that would provide workers with adequate hydration, rest breaks, shaded or air-conditioned areas, and appropriate medical services.
Measures at home to limit planet-warming pollution that increases the frequency of extreme weather events are also achievable.
Decreasing the size of your carbon footprint by switching from a car powered by dirty fuel to an electric model, recycling waste, and examining clean domestic energy solutions such as wind or solar power are all helpful in minimizing the harmful gases expelled into the atmosphere that exacerbate global heating.
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