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Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Biden Administration to unveil first-ever "hazard alert" to protect workers from extreme heat as record breaking temperatures persist across the US

The “hazard alert” will "reaffirm that workers have heat-related protections under federal law," White House officials said.

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As millions face prolonged periods of record-high temperatures across the U.S. from Phoenix to Philadelphia, the Biden Administrations has directed the Department of Labor to boost efforts in enforcement of heat-safety violations and inspections in high-risk workplaces including construction and agriculture sites. 

The Labor Department will also issue a first-ever hazard alert to tell employers that they should do to protect workers, ensure employees are aware of their rights, including protections against retaliation, and highlight steps that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has in place to try to ensure worker safety, the White House said. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will invest up to $7 million to improve weather forecasts to allow communities to better prepare for extreme weather, the White House said. The Department of the Interior is also investing $152 million to expand water storage and improve climate resilience in California, Colorado and Washington.

Biden’s response comes as 40% of the U.S. population faces heat advisories, according to the National Weather Service. The southwest this month in particular has seen the worst of the heat with more heat expected in the Midwest and the Northeast in the coming days. 

Scientists calculate that July will be the hottest month on record.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the heat waves as “a difficult time” and said the President was treating climate change with “the urgency it requires.”

Jean-Pierre emphasized Biden's track record on investing in clean energy through last year's Inflation Reduction Act.

"He's taken more action, has been more aggressive on dealing with climate change than any other president," press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.

"He has an ambitious agenda to deal with climate change, and he's going to move forward with that agenda," she said. 

Thursday’s new measures are meant to build upon measures the administration has taken to address climate change, the White House said.

President Biden will be joined on Thursday by the leaders of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Phoenix and San Antonio Mayors are expected to participate in the White House event virtually.

The greater Phoenix area has seen roughly 27 days in a row of temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit. No other major city has had any stretch of 110-degree (43.3-degree) days or 90-degree (32.2-degree) nights longer than Phoenix, said weather historian Christopher Burt, of the Weather Company. 

Over 100 members of Congress, led by Democratic Reps. Greg Casar and Sylvia Garcia of Texas have called on the administration to implement the new heat standard for outdoor workers in a letter Monday. 

“We know extreme weather events such as heat waves are becoming more frequent and more dangerous due to climate change. Urgent action is needed to prevent more deaths,″ the lawmakers wrote. 

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