Proposed Standard Targets Heat Illness Among Indoor Workers in California
A new regulation proposed by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the standards-setting agency within Cal/OSHA, is intended to prevent heat-related illness and injury among workers in indoor places of employment. The rulemaking is in response to California State Senate Bill 1167, which added section 6720 to the state’s labor code, directing Cal/OSHA to propose and implement such a standard “based on environmental temperatures, work activity levels, and other factors.”
The proposed standard applies to all indoor work areas in California where the temperature equals or exceeds 82 F when employees are present. A subsection of the proposed regulation further describes conditions under which employees in indoor work areas face higher risk of heat illness. Examples of these conditions include situations in which employees are wearing clothing that restricts heat removal and when employees are working in areas with high radiant heat. Requirements in the proposal cover access to drinking water and cool-down areas, assessment and control measures, emergency response procedures, acclimatization, and training for both employees and supervisors. The proposal would also require employers to establish, implement, and maintain effective heat illness prevention plans.
The proposed requirements are intended to ensure that employees working indoors receive protection and preventive measures equivalent to those working outdoors, the standards board’s notice (PDF) explains. Additional anticipated benefits include avoided costs related to morbidity and mortality caused by occupational exposure to extreme heat. The board also hopes that its proposal will help address “longstanding issues of occupational safety and health vulnerability and social and economic inequality by ensuring that employers provide physical relief to employees from excessive heat stress.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is accepting written comments on its indoor heat proposal until 5 p.m. local time on May 18, 2023. The board will also hold a public hearing in San Diego, California, beginning at 10 a.m. on May 18. Instructions for submitting written comments and attending the hearing via video conference, teleconference, or livestream can be found in the Cal/OSHA notice (PDF).