Updated Jul 27, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Biden announces first-ever heat wave "hazard alert" for workers

Illustration of a thermometer hitting 100 degrees with a construction helmet hanging off of it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Department of Labor will boost efforts to protect workers from extreme heat as temperature records fall in the Southwest and elsewhere, President Biden announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Biden presented the new protection efforts as 180 million people — over half of the U.S. population — were under heat alerts.

Driving the news: The White House asked Labor to issue a formal "hazard alert" that will "reaffirm that workers have heat-related protections under federal law," officials said.

  • It will provide employers information on protecting workers, and help ensure workers know their rights, a White House summary states.
  • In addition, the department will "ramp up enforcement of heat-safety violations," expanding inspections of "high risk" sectors like construction and agriculture.

The intrigue: It's the first time the Labor Department has used the "hazard alert" tool to address extreme heat, a White House official tells Axios.

  • Other efforts include NOAA investments to improve weather forecasts, and Interior Department steps to help ensure drinking water availability in drought-stricken western communities.

What he's saying: "We should be protecting workers from hazardous conditions … Construction workers who literally risk their lives working all day in blazing heat, and in some places don't even have the right to take a water break. That's outrageous," Biden said at a press conference on Thursday.

Go deeper: Scientists declare July world's hottest month and warn future will be worse

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details from Biden's remarks.

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