How Arizonans will be affected by White House plan to tackle extreme heat

Arizona is no stranger to extreme heat, especially during the summer months. At a virtual climate summit, the Biden administration launched a plan to tackle the “silent killer” plaguing our country: rising temperatures. The White House has decided to take action against the climate crisis after temperatures this summer soared to dangerous highs across the country.

“White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy has called heat stress a ‘silent killer’ that disproportionately affects the poor, the elderly and minority groups. While it is not as dramatic as wildfires or hurricanes, “heat stress is a real and significant threat with deadly consequences,” McCarthy said in an interview.

As part of the plan, the administration will launch a program that will help both outdoor workers and indoor workers affected by heat.

Roy Sawyer works on one of his downtown Phoenix construction sites. (Photo by Olivia Diem)

Roy Sawyer, Construction Manager for JE Dunn Construction, has been in the industry for 25 years and is one of the outdoor workers that this initiative can make an impact.

Its employees “generally try to start [they] can, ”he says,“ but the problem with downtown is that there are restrictions on starting too early. So that puts the guys out in the heat a lot longer. We’ve had a lot of guys who have given up where, you know, they’re heat exhausted. ”

Sawyer’s experience in the industry has allowed him to figure out what he can do to protect himself and his workers from extreme heat. “The heat is pretty intense, you know, you take a lot of breaks, you drink a lot of fluids, a lot of electrolytes,” Sawyer says.

Sawyer says seeing more drinking aids, cooling stations and shade structures could help him and his team reduce heat exhaustion.

Heat illness is a common concern in Arizona, but with the White House’s growing concern about climate change, the Biden administration is starting to take action.

“In fact, the National Weather Service has confirmed that extreme heat is now the leading cause of weather-related death in America,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Arizona residents are used to finding ways around the heat, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it will issue a new rule that will prioritize “heat-related interventions and injuries. inspections of work activities on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, ”OSHA said in a national press release.

As many of us know, a good part of the year in Arizona has temperatures that far exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so how will the new rule be implemented here? The Biden administration said it would focus on “urban heat islands” in cities where heat is absorbed and held back by dense infrastructure, like buildings and pavement. Arizona cities like Phoenix “will see an expansion of urban forestry programs and other greening projects,” the White House said.

While the national government’s action on this crisis is relatively new, the Arizonans are taking the initiative and finding their own ways to resolve the “urban heat island” effect. Last month, the city of Phoenix and Arizona State University announced their results a year after implementing a cold pavement, a pavement capable of reflecting more sunlight and absorbing less heat than traditional pavement.

In another move, a bill from the Arizona state legislature was discussed in February.

Although Arizona has yet to see many national measures taken, OSHA said it will “take a major step towards a federal heat standard” this month.

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