Phoenix City Council passes ordinance to add safety measures for outdoor employees working in heat

Mar 28, 2024, 4:35 AM

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance on Tuesday strengthening safety measures for city-contracted workers who have to perform job duties in the summer heat.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, requires contractors to provide free, cold drinking water for employees and will allow for regular and necessary breaks for heat relief and hydration.

Other actions contractors must follow are providing access to shaded areas or air conditioning for workers, access to air conditioning in vehicles with enclosed cabs and carrying out training on how to prevent heat illness.

“Anybody who works out in the heat, that’s who this ordinance is going to protect and support,” Cecelia Ortiz, a wheelchair agent at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, told KTAR News 92.3 FM after the vote.

Worker heat protections necessary in Phoenix

The move comes as the number of heat-related deaths in metro Phoenix soared by more than 50% last year, setting a new annual record.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) confirmed 645 heat-related deaths in 2023, shattering the previous high of 425 from a year earlier. More than half the deaths, 340, occurred in Phoenix.

Ortiz said she’s had her own struggles at the airport during the summer.

At times, she’s gotten dizzy and had cramps in her legs while having to deal with the heat.

Ortiz works in Terminal 3 and said she can’t take liquids back and forth through the security checkpoints she often goes through.

The ordinance will change that for Ortiz and others who work outside in triple-digit heat.

“We just weren’t able to get to a water source because of a high volume or being short-staffed so we pushed ourselves a little bit more,” Ortiz said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Heidi Hommel contributed to this report.

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Phoenix City Council passes ordinance to add safety measures for outdoor employees working in heat