Date: Aug 12, 2014
Cal/OSHA Proposes New Heat Illness Regulations: Comments Invited

The Cal/OSH Standards Board published its proposal on August 8, starting a 45-day comment period that ends with a public hearing on Sept. 25 in San Diego. Your comments and thoughts are needed so that we can appropriately respond to the proposal. Attached is a draft letter with draft comments, followed by some questions for employers to review and respond to so that we can better understand the potential impact of the new proposed provisions. Please only tell us the impact of the changes, not to the current regulation. It is also very important that you share your thoughts on any cost impacts to your business. Your responses will only be shared anonymously and mostly aggregated. If you are available to attend the public hearing on September 25 in San Diego and would be willing to testify please let us know so we can help you prepare for the hearing.

According to the Cal-OSHA Reporter, the proposal would specify how close water and shade must be to workers, lower the temperature threshold for shade and high-heat procedures, tighten requirements for cool-down rest periods and specify actions supervisors must take if workers exhibit symptoms of heat illness.

Currently General Industry Safety Orders §3395 requires that employers provide drinking water and access to shade for workers. The latter must be erected at 85F and must accommodate 25% of the crew. The first-in-the-nation standard also requires that workers who fear they could develop heat illness be allowed to take a break in the shade for at least five minutes. So-called "high-heat" procedures trigger at 95F, and the standard requires employers to have emergency procedures to respond to potential heat illness. Workers and supervisors must be trained on the procedures.

The proposed revisions would:

  • Specify that drinking water be free to workers, "fresh, pure and suitably cool" and be no farther than 400 feet from workers, unless site conditions prohibit.
  • Lower the "shade up" trigger to 80F, be sufficient to accommodate all workers on break and no more than 700 feet from workers, unless infeasible.
  • Require that employees taking a cool-down rest be encouraged to remain in the shade until symptoms have abated and be monitored during this period.
  • Lower the threshold for high-heat procedures from 95F to 85F.
  • Require a 10-minute recovery period every two hours that ag employees work continuously in at least 95F heat.
  • Provide that workers receive additional training on their right to exercise their rights under the regulation without fear of retaliation, procedures for acclimating to heat, written heat illness procedures and first aid/emergency response.
  • Require that supervisors "take immediate action" when an employee exhibits heat illness symptoms and prohibit employers from sending stricken workers home without offering first aid or emergency medical services.

The public hearing is at 10 a.m. on Sept. 25 in Room 310 of the County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway in San Diego.

WG Staff Contact

Jason Resnick
Sr. Vice President & General Counsel

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