(Source: CDF Labor Law, LLP by Thomas B. Song – August 21, 2023)

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 workspaces subjected to high-heat conditions have largely been untouched by Cal/OSHA, or have been held to much looser standards.

That is about to change with Cal/OSHA’s new indoor heat-illness regulation, which is positioned to be approved in the coming weeks. Through both indoor and outdoor 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 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. 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. If engineering controls, such as air conditioning or spot coolers, are ineffective in bringing the temperature below either 87 or 82 degrees (if wearing heat-restrictive clothing or in high-radiant heat areas), then the employer is required to consider administrative controls, such as modifying shift start/stop times, to minimize the risk of heat illness.

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. This includes cooling or heat reflective vests, or personal air fans – if 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 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.

Our workplace safety and human resource experts here at CalWorkSafety & HR can help ensure your heat-related policies are complaint, and help you avoid costly fines. Contact us today