Major Changes Coming to Heat Illness Standard

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health is proposing major revisions to California’s heat illness prevention standard.
The action is not yet a formal rulemaking, but the agency is sending its proposal to the Standards Board, is a big first step in revising the almost 10-year-old regulation. Employers with heat exposures may be well advised to pay attention to this issue as it advances through the regulatory process.

Among the proposed revisions:

  • Requiring employers to provide drinking water as close as practicable but no more than 400 feet from employees, with some wiggle room.
  • Shade to be provided when temperatures hit 80 degrees (currently 85F) and no farther than 700 feet from workers.
  • Employees who need to take a “cool-down rest” cannot be ordered back to work until symptoms of heat illness have abated. Employers also would have to monitor the worker during the rest period and provide emergency services if the symptoms worsen.
  • High-heat procedures would kick in at 85 degrees, instead of the current 95F. The draft also adds specific instructions for observing employees for heat illness signs during high-heat.
  • Expanding the training topics that must be provided to employees.
  • Adding specific instructions on what must be contained in employers’ written heat illness prevention procedures.
  • Requiring supervisors to take “immediate action” if employees show signs of heat illness. Such employees would have to be offered emergency medical services before they could be sent home.

Once the Standards Board reviews the draft, it might return it to DOSH for changes or for questions.

No timetable has been set for formal adoption but this appears to be on a fast track.