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California’s State Department of Finance Objects to Indoor Heat Rules

Worker sweating in the workplace

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) approved on March 21 heat illness prevention standards for indoor workers. However, state finance officials have objected to the rules due to their costs, so the implementation of the rules is in limbo.

We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other outlets.

Rules’ Scope and Uncertain Status

The rules would set temperature requirements in warehouses, shipping centers, schools, kitchens and other workplaces that are often hot, particularly in the summer. The California OSHSB, the standards-setting agency within the Cal/OSHA program, voted unanimously for the standard despite intervention by the California Department of Finance.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the California Department of Finance, said the rules can’t move forward without the agency’s approval. He rejected board members’ assertion that they were blindsided by the department’s concerns and said finance officials did not receive some data related to the regulations until February. The impact of the rules, he said, could be “in the neighborhood of billions of dollars.”

Safety advocates hope Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration will approve the rule despite the unresolved cost issues.

(LA Times and Bloomberg Government)

Department of Finance’s Role

By law, the California Department of Finance is required to approve a fiscal review for any regulation that would have significant economic impacts. “This is not a decision made in an arbitrary manner or concerning policy,” Palmer said. “We did not have the time to do due diligence.”

The proposed rule is set to expire on March 31—one year after introduction of the rule on March 31, 2023—after which rulemaking will have to start again from scratch, unless there is an emergency rulemaking to ensure protections are in place prior to the summer heat.

The proposed standard would require worksites to be cooled below 87 degrees Fahrenheit when employees are present and below 82 degrees Fahrenheit in places where workers wear protective clothing or are exposed to radiant heat, such as furnaces. Buildings could be cooled with air conditioning, fans, misters and other methods. Businesses that couldn’t cool their workplaces sufficiently could offer workers cooldown areas. Some businesses have expressed fear they won’t be able to meet the requirements if they are finalized, even with the flexibility the regulation offers.

(News-Medical.Net and Seyfarth via Lexology)

Federal Heat Standards Are in the Works

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a federal indoor and outdoor standard but has yet to release a proposed standard for public comment. In its advance notice of proposed rulemaking, OSHA asked for input on existing efforts at the state level to prevent occupational heat-related illness. Its questions included:

  • What are the most effective aspects of existing state standards aimed at preventing occupational heat-related illness?
  • What are the challenges associated with implementing the existing state standards?
  • Which components of state standards or programs should be included in federal guidance or regulatory efforts on heat-related illness prevention?
  • Would any of the elements of the state standards not be feasible to include at the federal level?

(Bloomberg and SHRM Online)

National Emphasis Program Launched Two Years Ago

In April 2022, OSHA issued a national emphasis program on indoor and outdoor heat-related hazards that expands on the agency’s ongoing heat-related illness prevention campaign. OSHA currently enforces heat hazards under the general duty clause.

(Ogletree Deakins)


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