Extreme heat took an awful toll on workers in 2023, causing illnesses and deaths in Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, and beyond. These brutal temperatures weren’t a one-off; they were a harbinger of even worse conditions to come across the United States, even if we slash the pollution causing climate change. And we are not ready. The Biden-Harris administration has repeatedly committed to protect workers as part of its whole-of-government approach to extreme heat resilience (e.g., here, here, and here), but U.S. workers are still waiting for OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to finish heat safeguards the agency started working on in late 2021.
OSHA completed a congressionally mandated small business review of regulatory options in late 2023, which is a big step toward a formal standard. Now, in the spirit of “New Year, New You,” OSHA should resolve to get a proposed rule out to the public before heat season starts.
NRDC and 32 other organizations across the country said as much to the agency in a joint comment letter in December about the small business review. We urged OSHA to stay the course on heat protection measures that have been on worker wish lists for decades—including specific water, shade, rest, training, and emergency response protocols.