California Advances Indoor Heat Illness Standard

?On May 19 in San Diego, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) received public comment regarding the proposed Indoor Heat Standard. The board took public comments and discussed the regulation on the closing day of the 45-day comment period.

Employer representatives asked the Cal/OSHA Standards Board for clarity regarding application to vehicles and an exception for brief exposures. Employee representatives requested lowering the trigger temperature from the proposed 82 degrees Fahrenheit in indoor spaces. The Standards Board is scheduled to vote on the proposed regulation in the first quarter of 2024.

Background and Public Comments

Currently, California has an Outdoor Heat Illness Regulation for all outdoor places of employment. That regulation has been in effect for more than a decade, and Cal/OSHA regularly and aggressively enforces it throughout California.

The May 19 public comments session included many employer-side representatives, including from the California Chamber of Commerce, which spoke about the need for clarity and consistency with the current outdoor heat regulation. Employer representatives requested an exception for brief exposures, such as those less than 15 minutes, and requested clarity regarding the application to vehicles.

Unions, labor coalitions, fast-food workers, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers pushed for the board to approve the indoor regulation or lower the trigger temperatures. Worker representatives also requested expanded training, greater recordkeeping, and expanded rest breaks. Workers offered anecdotal information regarding water availability in warehouses, hot vehicles, and overheating during the summer months.

Proposed Indoor Heat Illness Regulation

The proposed regulation would require an indoor heat illness plan to address temperatures above 82 degrees in indoor spaces. Proposed plan requirements include:

  • Providing access to potable water that is “fresh, pure, suitably cool, and free of charge.” The water would need to be “as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.”
  • Providing cool-down areas for recovery or rest periods. Cool-down areas would need to be located “as close as practicable to areas where employees are working.”
  • Requiring employers to monitor the temperature and heat index.
  • Involving employees and union representatives in monitoring the temperatures and identifying and evaluating risk factors for heat illness.
  • Using engineering controls to reduce the temperature.
  • Using administrative controls to minimize the risk of heat illness.
  • Implementing emergency response procedures.
  • Requiring employees to acclimatize with observation during the first 14 days of employment and during work involving wearing clothing that restricts heat removal.
  • Ensuring that employees and supervisors are trained on specific subjects and procedures.

According to representatives from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) at the meeting, the timeline for implementation requires the Standards Board to vote on the proposed regulation in the first quarter of 2024, so that the new regulation can be in place for summer 2024.

Karen F. Tynan is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Sacramento, Calif. © 2023. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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