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Cal/OSHA Submits Draft Heat Illness Regulation

On May 28, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Department of Industrial Relations submitted a proposed revision to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard, Section 3395 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.  The agency indicates it has initiated this regulatory process with a goal of having a revised standard in place for the 2015 growing season.

Among the changes to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard proposed by the Agency:

  • Water provided "as close as practicable" to areas where employees are working, but at a distance of no more than 400 feet unless the employer can demonstrate that conditions prevent locating water within 400 feet;
  • Water will be "fresh, pure, suitably cool and provided to employees without charge," borrowing a phrase from the existing agricultural Field Sanitation Standard;
  • Shade will be required to be present at all times when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • The amount of shade should be sufficient for all employees taking meal, rest or recovery periods at any one time;
  • Shade must be within 700 feet walking distance unless the employer can demonstrate that conditions prevent locating shade within 700 feet; 
  • An employee taking a cool-down rest shall be encouraged to remain in the shade and shall not be ordered back to work until any signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated, but in no event less than five minutes in addition to the time needed to access the shade;
  • If an employee shows signs or symptoms of heat illness, the employer will monitor the employee during the rest period to determining if the employee is recovering. If the employee is not recovering, the employer must provide appropriate first aid and/or appropriate emergency medical services.

New "high heat" procedures will include:

  • The employer must ensure effective employee observation and monitoring by either having an supervisor or designee observe groups of 20 or fewer employees; use a "buddy system" to have employees observe each other; rely on regular communication with a single employee, or any other means of communication the employer deems effective;
  • The employer will designate an employee on each worksite who is authorized to call for emergency medical services;
  • The employer will conduct pre-shfit meetings to review the high-heat procedures, encourage employees to dring plenty of water and remind employees of their right to take a cool-down rest when needed;
  • For agricultural employers only, for every two hours an employee works continuously outdoors during temperatures of 95 degrees or higher, the employer must ensure the employee takes a ten minute net recovery period.  This recovery period must be taken, as much as practical, near the end of each second hour of work; this recovery period may be taken concurrently with any other meal or rest period required by IWC Order 14.

The proposed new standard also incudes beefed-up training requirements, and more specific requirements for written heat illness prevention programs.

The next process stage will be consideration of the Cal/OSHA proposal by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board.  This may include empaneling an Advisory Committee, and will certainly include hearings on the proposal.  FELS will keep you up to date on this story as it develops.

You can view the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Website at this link; you can view the agency's full draft regulation as submitted to the Standards Board at this link; and you can view the agency's draft Initial Statement of Reasons as submitted to the Standards Board at this link.