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Heat Illness Standard Proposal Revised

On November 19, Cal/OSHA and the Cal/OSHA Standards Board released a revised proposal to change the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.  The agency originally released a proposed revision on August 8, and held a public hearing on September 25.  FELS parent organization, California Farm Bureau Federation and a number of other ag organizations testified at that hearing and raised a number of objections and concerns:


  • The proposal to require water to be placed within 400’ and shade within 700’ would be unworkable in a variety of agricultural production situations for a variety of reasons (presence of infrastructure like trellises; prohibitions against foreign objects in production areas, etc.);
  • The requirement for shade for all workers on a given shift would be unworkable; for a large crew, provision of that much shade would be impossible on the fringe of a field, along an adjacent roadway, between a field edge and irrigation/drainage canals, and so forth due to lack of sufficient space;
  • Reduction of the “trigger temperature” at which shade would be required to be provided from the present rule’s requirement (85⁰) to 80⁰ due to the agency’s failure to provide any rationale for the need for change;
  • Reduction of the “trigger temperature” for various “High-Heat” requirements (enhanced monitoring of workers and additional training) from 95⁰ to 85⁰, again due to the agency’s failure to provide any justification;
  • The back-handed imposition of new requirements for training, emergency communications and other new requirements as items on which employers would be required to train employees, but without any clarity as to the actual requirements for employer action;
  • The creation of a new requirement, applicable to agriculture only, for employers to force employees to take net-10 minute rest breaks every two hours when the temperature reaches or exceeds 95⁰ due to the likely conflicts this requirement will present with already-required meal and rest periods under Wage Order 14.

In response to these concerns voiced at the hearing, the revised regulatory proposal released on November 19 made some changes to the proposed revision to the Standard:

  • Water to be provided “as close as practicable” to areas where workers are working:
  • Shade to be provided “as close as practicable” to areas where workers are working;
  • The requirement for shade to be “present” when the temperature exceeds 80⁰ was unchanged from the August proposal;
  • The agency maintained the requirement that shade must be “available” when the temperature does not exceed 80⁰; the current standard requires shade to be available when the temperature does not exceed 85⁰;
  • The agency narrowed the proposed requirement for provision of all workers on a given shift; now shade must be provided for all workers taking a meal, rest, or recovery break; the current standard requires provision of enough shade for 25% of the crew working;
  • The agency maintained the requirement from the current standard that “High-heat” procedures must be implemented when temperature equals or exceeds 95⁰;
  • The agency also maintained their proposal that High-heat procedures include the ag-only rest period, 10-minutes net, “when temperatures reach 95⁰.

California Farm Bureau Federation will submit comments on the revisions to the proposed rule; comments are due by December 8.  No hearing has been scheduled.  The agency is pushing to have a revised Heat Illness Prevention Standard in place for the upcoming 2015 growing season.  

You can view the notice published by the Cal/OSHA Standards Board here.