New Indoor Heat Illness Regulation Draft Lowers Temperature Thresholds

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) released a revised draft of the indoor heat illness regulation on January 29.  A draft of the regulation had previously been released for public comment in October 2018, which had a trigger temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  The latest draft has reduced that standard to 87 degrees.

indoor heat illness regulation “The employee representatives either submitted more comments or were much louder or much more forceful in the comments that they submitted because the changes that they’re now proposing very much favor the employee,” said AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe. 

Lowering the temperature threshold for areas which CalOSHA has defined as an indoor space could be incredibly costly for employers trying to meet that standard.  “I think about some of the facilities I’ve visited over the years,” said Wolfe,  “they are structurally sound for the purposes of passing county inspectors, but they’re not worth the time and investment in terms of spending the money for even a portable air conditioning system such that it has the capacity to cool that whole place down and get below that 87-degree trigger temperature.”

The latest draft has also added a stipulation for employees wearing heat restrictive clothing.  Wolfe noted that “if the combination of the heat restrictive nature of the clothing and the indoor temperature combined equals 82 degrees that’s when you then have to tackle administrative, engineering and behavioral controls.”

The behavioral control essentially amounts to training which will be required for employees but will not likely be considered as responsive action to mitigate risk.  “Engineering control is you physically creating a barrier; physically building something that helps mitigate that risk.  Administrative controls are when you are modifying work schedules, you are modifying work processes, you are modifying workflow, to help mitigate that risk,” said Wolfe.  “Risk mitigation is going to be engineering, or administrative, or a combination of those two.”

Comments on the revised draft of the indoor heat illness regulation will be accepted through Friday, February 22.  “It is incredibly valuable for employers themselves; for growers, packers, shippers, processors, farm labor contractors themselves to speak up and send in comments.  In particular, what will the cost to your business be,” Wolfe noted.

Listen to Wolfe’s entire interview.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West