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California Poised For Indoor Heat Illness Regulation
Aug 21, 2023

California Poised For Indoor Heat Illness Regulation

Topics: New Laws & Legislation, OSHA Issues, Personnel Policies and Procedures

Cal/OSHA has long been able to cite employers for violating stringent outdoor heat illness regulations, that apply to all “outdoor places of employment.” As a consequence, indoor work spaces subjected to high heat conditions have largely been untouched by Cal/OSHA, or held to much looser standards.

That is all about to change with Cal/OSHA’s new indoor heat illness regulation, which is positioned to be approved in the coming weeks. With both heat illness regulations, Cal/OSHA will have full authority to enforce heat-illness standards across all workplace environments, and all California workers will be covered by either the indoor or outdoor standard.

What Temperature Will Trigger the Regulations?

The proposed indoor regulation (found here) is triggered whenever the inside temperature or heat index of a building or other enclosed structure reaches 82 degrees F. Additional temperature monitoring and control requirements are triggered whenever the temperature reaches 87 degrees, or, 82 degrees if the employee is wearing clothing that restricts heat removal or the employee works in a high radiant heat area. Therefore, the indoor heat illness regulation will apply mostly to those industries where indoor temperatures are not easily controlled and kept below 82 degrees, such as shipping and warehouse operations, boiler and laundry rooms, oil and refinery, manufacturing, and restaurant kitchen areas with large ovens, stoves, and other sources of high heat.

What Do The Regulations Require?

The regulations will require access to suitably cool water, cool-down areas, acclimatization, and emergency response and training requirements, similar to existing outdoor heat illness regulations. The indoor regulations, however, are more specific and require cool water to be physically placed in the actual cool-down area. In turn, cool-down areas are required to be maintained at a temperature less than 82 degrees F (unless the employer can demonstrate it is infeasible to do so). The size of the cool-down area needs to accommodate the number of employees on recovery or rest periods, and allow for each person to sit in a normal posture without having to be in physical contact with each other.

Additional Monitoring and Control Requirements

For those employers who expect to have indoor temperatures reach 87 degrees(or reach 82 degrees with employees wearing heat restrictive clothing or working around high radiant heat), the temperature must be measured and recorded when it is first “reasonable” to expect that these temperatures will be reached, and again when the temperature is expected to be 10 degrees or more above previous measurements.  

Employers must also keep the workplace under 87 degrees F, to the extent feasible, by employing (1) engineering, (2) administrative, and (3) personal heat-protective equipment, in that specific order. So, only if engineering controls – such as air conditioning or spot coolers – are ineffective alone in bringing the temperature below either 87 or 82 degrees (if wearing heat restrictive clothing or in high radiant heat areas), is the employer then required to consider administrative controls, such as modifying shift start/stop times, to minimize the risk of heat illness.  

Finally, if both engineering and administrative controls are not sufficient to minimize the risk of heat illness, then the employer must consider use of personal heat-protective equipment to minimize the risk of heat illness – for example cooling or heat reflective vests, or personal air fans – again as long as the use of such equipment is feasible in the workplace.

More Paperwork

In addition, employers must implement and maintain an effective, written Heat Illness Prevention Program (or “HIPP”), which will  be one of the first documents that Cal/OSHA will demand during any inspection, related to heat-illness or otherwise. Employers therefore should be proactive in reviewing their heat-related policies to ensure they are up to speed and able to withstand the scrutiny of even the most discerning Cal/OSHA compliance officer.  

Please contact the author or your favorite CDF attorney if you need guidance or suggestions about compliance with the new regulations.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
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