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Climate Change Is Killing American Workers, and Biden Needs to Act Quickly

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The Biden administration’s decision Monday to issue a regulation that limits workers’ exposure to extreme heat didn’t come soon enough to save the life of Sebastian Francisco Perez. Perez was a 38-year-old agricultural worker from Guatemala making not quite $12 an hour in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. On an afternoon in late June, Perez was hauling irrigation pipes in 106-degree heat—part of a heat wave that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called “astounding”—when he collapsed and died from heat exposure.

Climate change is killing a growing number of farmworkers, construction workers, sanitation workers, and warehouse workers. Between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 359 workers died of heat exposure. That’s an average of 36 heat deaths per year. By 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “exposure to temperature extremes” was causing 40 annual deaths on the job; by 2019, the last year for which data are available, it was causing 53. Most of the victims keeled over like Perez in the blazing sun of a hot summer afternoon. Their median age was 41.

Don’t expect the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule, which will cover outdoor and indoor heat exposure, to appear in a matter of weeks, as OSHA’s forthcoming temporary emergency standard for Covid-19 likely will. (Though there’s no stated timetable for that, either.) OSHA is a small, underfunded agency that moves at a snail’s pace. It won’t issue even an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the first step toward a heat exposure standard, until next month.

How long does it take, from start to finish, for OSHA to issue a rule? On average, seven years, according to a 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office. In fairness, the GAO said OSHA in at........

© New Republic

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