President Biden mentions ag in heatwave measures

President Biden mentions ag in heatwave measures
Jul 31, 2023

The White House is stepping up heat safety inspections in industries like agriculture

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

New protections to ensure worker safety are designed to help ag and construction workers, and similar workers exposed to extreme heat.

During a July 27 announcement asking the Department of Labor to issue the first ever Hazard Alert for Heat, President Biden outlined measures to help employees and communities deal with extreme heat.

The department “will ramp up enforcement of heat-safety violations, increasing inspections in high-risk industries like construction and agriculture, while (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) continues to develop a national standard for workplace heat-safety rules,” Biden said.

The hazard alert will also help provide employers information on protecting workers, and make sure workers know their rights.

A day prior to the president’s announcement, farm workers’ groups called for OSHA to issue a federal heat rule.

“We must prevent heat-related deaths and we can do so by establishing a permanent heat standard that provides workers access to shade, paid rest breaks, training and water,” the United Farm Workers said in a statement.

Industry groups have voiced concern over the potential of a national standard in the past.

In January 2022, for example, the National Cotton Council reminded lawmakers that agriculture is a unique industry.

“Certain crops must be harvested in certain local climatic conditions such as temperature and humidity with timeliness of harvest critical to maintain the necessary crop quality the marketplace desires,” wrote Steve Hensley, the organization’s senior scientist. “The same can be said for planting and other time-sensitive activities. Setting required breaks by time or temperature will not work for the same reasons, with growers often under pressure to complete tasks based on weather forecasts or the availability of daylight.”

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