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Sky Harbor emphasizes heat safety for workers as summer approaches

As summer approaches, Sky Harbor Airport is preparing workers to stay safe in extreme heat. The airport held a resource fair for workers Wednesday.

"Outdoor work becomes less productive and more dangerous in summer heat, as the body is fatigued, as people are dehydrated, as they might lose their concentration," said David Hondula, director of Phoenix’s Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, at the event. 

The summer of 2023 was Phoenix's hottest ever. A  record 645 people died from heat-related causes last year. Hondula said a key component of the city's plan for addressing heat this summer will be to put more emphasis on outdoor worker safety. 

Thousands of city contractors, including many Sky Harbor workers, this summer will be covered by new protections under a  recently passed city ordinance. It requires employers who work with the city to create heat safety plans for their workers and train employees to recognize heat illness. It also requires employers to give workers access to water, shade and regular breaks.

"It’s important to help them do their jobs and just to stay safe performing their tasks," Hondula said. 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.