Heating and Cooling, Human Resources, Safety

California Revises Indoor Heat Standard Proposal

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB), which sets workplace safety and health standards for the state, released revised text of its draft standard for heat illness prevention in indoor spaces.

The board updated its draft standard in response to comments made in an earlier draft. Changes to the proposed regulation include:

  • An exception for incidental exposures above 82 degrees Fahrenheit for less than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period;
  • An exception for emergency operations directly involved in the protection of life or property;
  • Removal of an exception for workers who move back and forth between indoor and outdoor environments;
  • The addition of a definition of a “high radiant heat source,” or any object, surface, or other source of radiant heat that would raise the global temperature of the cool-down area by 5 degrees Fahrenheit or more; and
  • Allowing training for indoor heat illness prevention to be integrated with training for outdoor heat illness prevention.

Comments were due to the board on November 28.

The 2016 California Senate Bill (SB) 1167 directed the board to establish a standard for indoor heat illness prevention. The state has an existing standard for outdoor heat illness prevention.

The board accepted stakeholder input during an initial 45-day comment period last spring and held a public hearing on the proposed standard in May. The board accepted input during a 15-day comment period in August before the current comment period this month.

In the board’s informative digest published in March, the OSHSB explained that the proposed standard would require that workers in indoor space have access to drinking water and cool-down areas, be closely observed during an acclimatization period, be trained, receive timely emergency aid, and be protected through mandatory assessment and control measures in situations of significantly higher heat exposure. The requirements are similar to those in California’s outdoor heat illness prevention standard.

There’s no federal standard for heat illness prevention, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing one. Federal OSHA currently cites employers for heat illness violations using its authority under the General Duty Clause (§5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

On October 27, 2021, OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The ANPRM contained 114 questions about a potential standard.

The agency reported receiving 965 unique comments from stakeholders in response to the ANPRM. In June of this year, OSHA invited stakeholders to participate in meetings of a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel.

In April 2022, OSHA issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards. Under the federal NEP, agency compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) may make inspection “self-referrals” if, during their regular travels, they observe workers exposed to heat hazards. OSHA’s area offices also may act on referrals from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

Along with California, Oregon has a state standard for heat illness prevention. Minnesota has a standard for hot and cold work environments.

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