Biden administration makes extreme heat rules to protect workers, expands cooling programs

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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is writing new workplace rules to protect farm laborers, construction workers and others from extreme heat, an increasing problem in a warming world.

Heat is the nation's leading weather-related killer, the White House said Monday in announcing multiple actions, including the development of a new workplace heat standard.

In addition, a new enforcement initiative will prioritize inspections when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. High-risk industries will be targeted through a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections aimed at taking effect before next summer.

Just three states – California, Washington and Minnesota – have permanent rules and regulations that protect farmworkers from extreme heat.

'We are so unprepared': Extreme heat fueled by climate change putting farmworkers' lives on the line

Pedro Lucas, center, nephew of farmworker Sebastian Francisco Perez, who died while working in an extreme heatwave, talks about his uncle's death, on July 1, 2021, near St. Paul, Ore.
Pedro Lucas, center, nephew of farmworker Sebastian Francisco Perez, who died while working in an extreme heatwave, talks about his uncle's death, on July 1, 2021, near St. Paul, Ore.

Efforts to expand cooling programs

Other steps the administration announced are aimed at protecting communities from extreme heat, including kids in schools without air conditioning and seniors in nursing homes without cooling resources.

For example, next month the Environmental Protection Agency plans to select local partners to develop neighborhood cooling centers within existing public school facilities.

Changes to a federal energy assistance program for low-income households enable states to expand the program to allow for the purchase of air-conditioning units, increase cooling assistance payments for electric bills, establish cooling centers and more.

The Department of Homeland Security is launching a series of prize competitions, the first of which challenges participants to come up with new ways to protect people during extreme heat events or in connection with other disasters.

"This is a blinking code red for our nation," President Joe Biden said about increasing extreme weather events.

Scientists have said the deadly and record-breaking heat wave in parts of the Western U.S. and Canada this summer would have been "virtually impossible" without the influence of climate change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Heat and Health Tracker is issuing this week a nationwide heat forecast for October.

More: The heat wave in the West 'virtually impossible' without climate change

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Extreme heat: Biden moves to increase protections for workers, communities

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