On November 19, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board once again proposed amendments to CCR, Title 8, Section 3395 (heat illness prevention rule). The modifications are being considered as a result of public comments following a Public Hearing of the Standards Board in September that considered a prior proposal to modify the heat illness prevention rule.
Unfortunately, the new proposal largely mirrors the prior proposal and would add significant burdens to agricultural employers. Among other changes:
- Placement of Water: Changed from 400 feet walking distance to “as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.”
- Placement of Shade: Changed from 700 feet walking distance to “as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.” The requirement is also being modified to read “and does not deter or discourage access or use,” which Cal/OSHA says better expresses the concept of workers being unable or unwilling to use the available shade because of where that shade is located.
- The trigger temperature for high-heat procedures is retained at 95° instead of 85° as proposed in the prior proposal.
- New requirements for acclimatization cover supervision of all employees during a “heat wave” defined as a day when the predicted temperature will reach or exceed 80° and be at least 10 degrees higher than the daily average high in the preceding five days. An employee who is newly-assigned to a high-heat area would be required to be closely observed by a supervisor for the first 14 days of the employee's employment.
The proposed rules also retain a number of proposed modifications from the prior proposal including:
- Requiring a recovery period every two hours for agricultural employees under high-heat conditions. Agriculture and other outdoor industries strongly opposed this modification on the grounds that it constitutes an unprecedented comingling of wage and hour requirements with health and safety requirements and would facilitate the use of private attorney general lawsuits to enforce heat illness prevention requirements.
- The amount of shade present is being proposed to change from at least enough to accommodate 25% of the number of employees to accommodating the number of employees on any given meal, recovery or rest period.
The modified proposal was issued in a 15-day notice and public comments will be received until 5:00 p.m., December 8, 2014. Western Growers is part of the Heat Illness Prevention Coalition that will be submitting written comments to the Standards Board.
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