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New Regulations Coming to Prevent Heat Illness in the California Workplace

California’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) created heat illness prevention regulations for outdoor workers in 2015. See New Heat Illness Prevention Measures Now in Place.

Those regulations require specific protective measures for outdoor work, including provision of free, fresh, and “suitably cool” drinking water, access provided to shady rest areas when temperature is over 80 degrees F, monitoring of preventative cool-down, additional high-heat (over 95 degrees F) procedures, and training. See Heat Illness Prevention Amendments Are Likely to Take Effect May 1, 2015. Cal/OSHA (California Division on Occupational Safety and Health) later took measures to increase enforcement of these preventative measures. See Cal/OSHA Increases Enforcement.

In 2016, the Legislature passed SB 1167 requiring OSHSB to propose – by January 1, 2019 – a comparable set of regulations to “minimize[…] heat-related illness and injury  among workers” who work indoors. The OSHSB may choose to limit the proposal to certain industries or not. While the Legislature provided no guidelines for regulation content, presumably the OSHSB will propose protections similar to outdoor settings.

Whether these new regulations are actually needed is debatable. The National Federation of Independent Business/California contends:

“This bill is unnecessary because current regulations require employers to identify and address workplace hazards, including the risk of heat illness in indoor workplaces. If in fact indoor heat illness prevention presents a hazard which is not being adequately addressed, Cal/OSHA has other methods with which to effect compliance with current regulations.” See NFIB Reacts to Governor Brown Signing SB 1167       

Whatever the new standards, it is safe to assume Cal/OSHA will begin enforcing them as soon as they take effect in 2019. In any event, employers in industries with high-heat indoor environments should regularly review their safety measures to ensure they adequately prevent heat illness.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

April 11, 2017