In 2005, California OSHA (Cal-OSHA) promulgated its Heat Illness Prevention standard, Section 3395, regulating employees’ exposure to heat for all outdoor places of employment.  This standard is unique to California.  Neither Federal OSHA nor any other state operated OSHA program has developed a similar standard governing heat exposure.

While Federal OSHA has no specific standard governing heat illness, the Agency has increased the number of heat-related inspections, as well as the number of General Duty clause or 5(a)(1) citations issued to employers.  Between 2012 and 2013, a total of 266 heat-related inspections were conducted and 21 General Duty clause citations issued for heat-related injuries.

At an American Bar Association meeting earlier this year, the Agency indicated that OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs is working with the Office of Occupational Medicine on a heat illness project to analyze heat enforcement cases from 2011 to 2013.  The Agency’s objective is to determine the various risk factors that contributed to the heat illness in those cases.  Federal OSHA could use this data in developing a proposed rule for heat illness prevention, however, the Agency has not hinted at this possibility.

In May, Cal-OSHA submitted a draft of proposed amendments to its Heat Illness Prevention standard to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board). As a basis for the proposed amendments, Cal-OSHA has stated that the amendments are intended to clarify the existing requirements of Section 3395.  Among the proposed amendments are:

  • Clarifying that water be provided at no cost to employees.
  • Clarifying that water provided must be fresh, pure, suitably cool and within 400 feet of employees.
  • Lowering the temperature for when shade must be provided from 85 degrees to 80 degrees.
  • Lowering the temperature at which high heat procedures must be implemented from 95 degrees to 85 degrees.
  • Adding to the high heat procedures a requirement that employers must designate and authorize an employee at the worksite to call for emergency medical services.
  • Adding a requirement for a pre-shift meeting before beginning work to review high heat procedures, encourage employees to drink water and to take cool-down breaks.
  • Adding a requirement that agricultural employers must ensure that when an employee works two continuous hours in temperatures equal to or exceeding 95 degrees the employee takes a ten minute recovery period.
  • Adding requirement that the written heat illness prevention plan be available in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees.

If the proposed amendments are approved by the Standards Board, then a public comment period and a public hearing would be set.  As of now these timeframes are unknown.

A copy of the draft proposed amendments to Cal-OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention standard, Section 3395 can be found online here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/doshreg/heatillprevent.html