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May 24, 2019
Cal/OSHA pushes indoor heat proposal forward

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has revised its draft indoor heat illness prevention standard to address stakeholders’ concerns. Employers would have to maintain the indoor temperature and heat index below 87 degrees Fahrenheit when workers are present under the standard.

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The state agency doesn’t anticipate making any additional changes before it begins the rulemaking process.

A proposal is overdue. The California law authorizing the standard set a January 1, 2019, deadline for Cal/OSHA to send a proposed rule to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board.

Indoor heat limits

Employers also would be required to maintain the temperature and heat index below 82 degrees where workers work in high radiant heat work areas or must wear clothing that restricts heat removal.

Clothing items that restrict heat removal include those that cover the arms, legs, and torso that are:

  • Waterproof;
  • Designed to protect the wearer from a biological, chemical, fire, or radiological hazard; or
  • Designed to protect the wearer or work process from contamination.

Other requirements of the draft standard would include:

  • Establishing, implementing, and maintaining a heat illness prevention plan;
  • Implementing emergency response procedures for signs and symptoms of heat illness and contacting emergency medical services, if necessary;
  • Providing water and access to cool-down areas maintained below 82 degrees;
  • Taking temperature or heat index measurements during work shifts and maintaining records of measurements to assess the effectiveness of the employer’s control measures;
  • Closely monitoring new or newly assigned employees while they acclimate to hot conditions;
  • Training workers and supervisors in the risks and signs of heat illness; and
  • Using administrative controls or providing heat-protective equipment if engineering controls cannot reduce the temperature and heat index below the standard’s limits.

Evolving draft

Cal/OSHA has repeatedly revised the draft standard since its initial February 22, 2017, discussion draft. The agency made the latest round of revisions in response to comments from employers, labor unions, and other stakeholders in a January 29 draft.

No federal standard

Federal OSHA has no indoor or outdoor heat illness prevention standard. OSHA cites employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause, usually after an employee succumbs to heat illness. A coalition led by Public Citizen has called OSHA’s practice reactive and repeatedly petitioned the agency for a heat illness standard.

Minnesota has temperature limits for both cold and hot conditions in indoor workplaces. Employers must maintain a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit during cold conditions where light or moderate work is performed and 60 degrees for heavy work. Minnesota’s heat limits are 77 degrees for heavy work, 80 degrees for moderate work, and 86 degrees for light work.

Next steps

There are several steps to complete before California’s indoor heat standard becomes final. Cal/OSHA must complete a prerulemaking package with proposed rulemaking text it would submit to the standards board. The standards board staff reviews Cal/OSHA’s submission before publishing a proposed rulemaking for public comment and public hearings.

Cal/OSHA 2019

To learn more about Cal/OSHA regulatory developments and strategies to stay in compliance, attend BLR’s upcoming Cal/OSHA Summit 2019.

The Cal/OSHA Summit, which will be held from October 7–9 in Los Angeles, is a leading state-specific event for California employers and safety professionals to get cutting-edge developments on new safety regulations, compliance strategies, and management tactics. Register now.

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