Heat Wave Hits the Workplace

By: James Flippin · July 24, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fighting the Heat

Workers across the nation are heated — figuratively and literally.

In farms, warehouses, and fast-food kitchens across the country, many workers are subject to extremely hot work conditions, particularly due to rising global temperatures, which have gone from “disagreeable” to “dangerous” over the past few decades.

Now, workers are starting to speak out about the limitations of legal safeguards set in place to keep them out of the heat.

Setting Records

July is on track to be the hottest month ever recorded. So far, this month has had 14 days with temperature spikes that haven’t been seen in nearly 125,000 years.

For those with the luxury of properly air-conditioned cars and offices, the heat may be more of an inconvenience than anything else. But for those who work outside for a living without access to AC — approximately 38.7 million workers — this extreme heat poses a serious threat.

From 2011 to 2021, there were more than 400 work-related deaths caused by heat exposure, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. With temperatures hitting new highs, this rate is at risk of rising over the coming years.

Regulation Limitations

Currently, a lack of federal laws exist to protect workers from extreme heat, which is one reason that many workers are starting to voice their frustrations.

The Biden administration started working to add heat safety rules to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, back in 2021. But thus far, there is little concrete legislation to show for it.

Fortunately, many companies have taken steps to address this issue, regardless of regulations. Among them, Target (TGT) recently updated its dress code to allow employees to wear shorts. Meanwhile, UPS (UPS), in its ongoing negotiations with its workers union, agreed to install air conditioning in all delivery trucks.

Now that the issue has entered the national conversation, we could soon see even more companies take initiative to cool the temperature for workplaces and workers alike.

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