An Update on Cal/OSHA’s Indoor Heat Standard

On September 29, 2016 Governor Brown signed into law SB 1167, which was introduced by Senator Connie Leyva.  The bill requires Cal/OSHA to adopt an indoor heat illness standard by January 1, 2019.  After many revisions, the bill was approved in August and signed by the Governor a month later.

An OSHA Appeals Board decision seemed to be the impetus for the bill. Briefly, that case stemmed from a 2012 serious citation issued to two employers working in a warehouse setting where a worker experienced an apparent heat related injury while working inside a metal freight container where it was reported that temperatures reached over 100 degrees.  DOSH cited both companies for not having an effective IIPP.  The citation was appealed and the employers won their case.  In March 2015, DOSH appealed the decision and in November 2015, the ALJ’s [Administrative Law Judge] decision was overturned by the Appeals Board, meaning the employers were responsible for the injury.

During the hearings, proponents stated that employers simply did not maintain an adequate Injury and Illness Prevention Program, where hazards (such as heat stress) are identified and corrective action taken and therefore a specific bill is needed to spell out details to prevent indoor heat related illnesses.  Be that as it may, DOSH is now in the process of proposing a regulation on Indoor Heat and an Advisory Committee has been formed, of which I am a member.  To date, there have been two Advisory Committee meetings, the last one in May 2017 where regulatory language has been proposed.  Some of the stakeholders believe that to develop an effective regulation, perhaps the regulation should be focused on a particular industry, e.g., garment, warehousing, foundry, etc.  That doesn’t appear to be the direction Cal/OSHA is taking however.  The latest draft states that the regulation “applies to all indoor places of employment where the dry bulb temperature equals or exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit” with the exception for workers who spend less than one hour per day indoors in that environment.  The mechanism for evaluating heat would be the Heat Index used by the National Weather Service.  Interestingly, one of the last changes to the bill was the addition of the ACGIH Threshold Limit Value for Heat which is not mentioned at all in DOSH’s proposed regulation.  The reason for its absence is unclear.  Beyond the temperature trigger points for action, the proposed regulation reads very similar to the existing (outdoor) Heat Illness Standard including the need for a written program.  We will keep you apprised on the iterations of this most interesting Cal/OSHA regulation.