Consortium Statement on Initiative to Protect Workers and Communities from Extreme Heat

The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health welcomes and applauds the Biden Administration’s new cross-agency initiative to protect workers and communities from the impacts of extreme heat.

Climate scientists have let the nation know that extreme heat conditions will become more frequent and more widespread as time passes. Meanwhile, Consortium physicians have been warning people across the country that they need protection from extreme heat waves that are causing unusual emergency conditions. Doctors and healthcare workers understand and are clear with patients that this can only be explained by climate change. Physicians and public health officials are witnessing the growing impact as more people get sick and too often die because of the dangerous effects of extreme heat. The Administration has responded to this growing threat with an announcement on September 20 of much needed protections. Several actions will protect people and communities from extreme heat. View Factsheet>

Doctors and public health professionals know that extreme heat is already the nation’s leading weather-related killer–and that some people are more vulnerable. While extreme heat is a health risk for everyone, children, pregnant people, the elderly, people with low incomes, communities of color that have experienced disinvestment, and people who work outdoors are at the highest risk.

The new protections include launching an OSHA rulemaking process to create a federal occupational heat standard for outdoor and indoor workers with inspection and enforcement efforts. They include tweaking existing programs such as the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program to enhance cooling assistance to households; leveraging existing funding to develop neighborhood cooling centers within public school facilities; and providing guidance and assistance to better prepare for and respond to rising heat risk through tree planting and urban forestry, data sharing, and technical assistance for communities.

Climate change is a health emergency. The new heat initiative is an important step in addressing it. We offer our expertise, experience, and commitment to work with the administration to implement these new programs as robustly and expeditiously as possible.