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Phoenix Ramps Up Heat Safety Laws for Outdoor Workers

Mario Tama via Getty Image

The Phoenix City Council unanimously approved a heat safety measure on Tuesday to enhance protection for outdoor workers in the scorching Arizona heat. Responding to rising temperatures and the surge in heat-related illnesses and fatalities, the city will implement an ordinance within 30 days, mandating employers of outdoor workers to establish a heat safety plan.

"Extreme heat is Phoenix's natural disaster," remarked District 7 Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari during the session. Ansari noted the toll of over 600 deaths in Maricopa County in 2023, with nearly 400 fatalities occurring in Phoenix alone.

The mandated heat safety plans will extend to all city contracts, leases, and licenses, including subcontracts. These plans are required to encompass provisions such as the availability of free cool drinking water, regular breaks including water breaks, access to shade or air conditioning, air conditioning in enclosed vehicles, acclimatization practices, and training on heat illness and injury.

During the meeting, union representatives and worker advocates passionately advocated for the ordinance, citing instances of prolonged outdoor work without access to water or shade. “It also makes good business sense for us to have and implement a heat response plan,” David Hondula, director of Phoenix’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, told the city council prior to the vote. “For one, research shows us that workers who are not dealing with, recovering from or worried about heat-related illness are more productive on the job.”

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