Indoor Heat Illness Rule: CalChamber-Led Coalition Proposes Additional Clarity

A California Chamber of Commerce-led coalition has submitted a fourth set of comments on a fourth draft of the Cal/OSHA proposed draft indoor heat illness rule. While the coalition appreciates the revisions incorporated into the newest draft, the coalition proposes further revisions to provide clarity and to lead to better compliance and employee safety and health.

The coalition is comprised of large and small employers across many diverse industries. The coalition members take the safety and health of their employees very seriously. Many members of the coalition were involved with the development and implementation of the outdoor heat illness regulation and have significant experience with how to effectively prevent heat illness.

Coalition Letter

In the June 15 letter, the coalition reiterates its concerns that with the complexity as written, the discussion draft will not result in increased employee protection. The coalition asserts that employers need to be able to understand the requirements to comply with the regulation and to continue to keep employees safe and healthy.

In an effort to improve the requirements, the coalition has again provided significant amendments to the discussion draft, seeking clarification of various requirements and modifications to workplace controls.

The coalition appreciates the clarity and flexibility provided by the new definition of an indoor work area and further proposes significant changes to address the definition of indoor as it relates to vehicles.

So employers can understand and comply with their obligations, changes also are suggested to the scope and application of “warehousing and storage,” definition of and access to a “cool-down area” and clarification of the definition of “clothing that restricts heat removal.” The coalition also seeks greater flexibility in how and when employers use engineering and administrative controls or personal heat-protective equipment to protect employees working in high heat conditions and when to measure temperatures and heat index in a work area.

Background

In 2017, Cal/OSHA convened two stakeholder advisory committees to tackle the challenge of reaching consensus among interested parties from industry, labor, management and academia on how to regulate the prevention of heat illness for indoor workers.

To date, Cal/OSHA has provided draft rules for discussion only—no formal rulemaking has begun. These draft rules propose to regulate all indoor workplaces—a place of employment would be either indoors or outdoors; not neither and not both.

Defining an indoor workplace, as opposed to an outdoor workplace, has proven to be challenging, including determining when vehicles and equipment are indoor or outdoor. Many employers have both outdoor and indoor workplaces, with some or all employees transitioning between both.

These questions of scope require industry input to provide Cal/OSHA the most rational and complete understanding of operations and risks, as well as rational, feasible policies to address those identified risks.

Next Steps

The statute specifies that a proposal will be submitted to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board by the end of the year. Although there is no timeframe, it is anticipated that the next step is for Cal/OSHA to begin the formal rulemaking process sometime in early 2019.

All industries with any indoor workplace that reaches or exceeds 80 degrees—from warehouses to restaurants to laundry operations, delivery drivers and many others—are encouraged to participate in the stakeholder discussions. SB 1167, the 2016 legislation requiring Cal/OSHA to adopt indoor heat illness rules, does not specify any exceptions.

To participate in CalChamber’s stakeholder working group, please send an email of interest with your contact information to heatillness@calchamber.com.

Staff Contact: Marti Fisher

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