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What is the new OSHA rule? Biden proposes heat protection regulations as US swelters


The Biden administration on Tuesday proposed a new rule to address excessive heat in the workplace, warning that high temperatures are the country’s leading weather-related killer as nearly 90 million people in the US are under heat advisories. The rule from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would require employers to provide workers with water, shaded areas, and breaks when temperatures hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), with more stringent requirements at 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
“Workers all over the country are passing out, suffering heat stroke and dying from heat exposure from just doing their jobs, and something must be done to protect them,” said Douglas Parker, OSHA’s head.President Joe Biden highlighted the proposal as one of several steps his administration is taking to address extreme weather. “More people die from extreme heat than floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined,” Biden said.
Swaths of California sweltered on Tuesday, and temperatures are expected to worsen during the Fourth of July holiday week. The torrid conditions are caused by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and another ridge extending heat warnings from Kansas and Missouri to the Gulf Coast, according to the National Weather Service.
California’s capital, Sacramento, is under an excessive heat warning until Sunday night, with temperatures forecasted to reach between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 to 46 degrees Celsius). John Mendoza, a Sacramento resident, described it as a “firehose of heat” while walking around the Capitol with an iced coffee. “I felt like I needed to be submerged in water,” he said.
About 70 miles north of Sacramento, firefighters battled a wildfire in Butte County that prompted evacuation orders for around 13,000 people in Oroville. The blaze, named the Thompson Fire, swiftly grew to over 3 square miles (7.7 square kilometers) by evening. Crews braced for overnight winds as helicopters dropped water on the fast-moving flames.
In Sacramento, Katherine Powers, who is homeless, sought shade in Cathedral Square. She had not yet visited one of Sacramento County’s nine cooling centers due to difficulties in carrying her possessions. “I’m just going to go to a park with a water fountain just to stay cool,” she said. Darlene Crumedy from Fairfield avoids air conditioning due to high costs, saying, “I’m good, I have a hundred fans.”
An analysis by The Associated Press found that heat killed more than 2,300 people in the United States last year, with heat-related deaths likely underreported. Dr. Arthur Jey, an emergency services physician with Sutter Health in Sacramento, emphasized the importance of staying hydrated and recognizing signs of heat stroke, such as unusual behavior and profuse sweating. “With heat stroke, it looks like a stroke,” he said.
The proposed rule is expected to face opposition and possible lawsuits from businesses and trade groups. Currently, only California, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, and Washington have workplace standards for heat exposure. The new federal rule would override state standards, requiring them to implement measures at least as stringent as the federal requirements.
As the hottest month of the year begins, millions of Americans are at increased risk of heat strokes and other heat-related illnesses. The OSHA proposal does not apply to sedentary or remote workers, emergency-response workers, or indoor job sites maintained below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).
Simultaneously, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report highlighting the impacts of climate change, including heat-related workplace deaths. “This year’s report adds heat-related workplace deaths and marine heat waves as climate change indicators,” an EPA official noted.
The Biden administration’s actions aim to mitigate the human and financial costs of climate change, which last year inflicted $90 billion in damage to the economy. “These climate-fueled extreme weather events don’t just affect people’s lives. They also cost money, hurt the economy, and have a significant negative psychological effect on people,” Biden said.

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