Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

California to mandate heat protections for indoor workers

By 37ci3 Jun22,2024


  • California is expected to implement the state’s first rules to protect indoor workers from the heat.
  • The policy, which could go into effect later this summer, would require employers to provide water, breaks and cool places when indoor temperatures reach 82 degrees.
  • Oregon and Minnesota are the only other states that require similar protections.

California is preparing to adopt the state’s first regulations protect indoor workers from excessive heat — a policy that could be implemented later this summer.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (Cal/OSHA) standards board voted unanimously Thursday. confirm now wworkplace rules. That sends them to the state’s Office of Administrative Law, which means the standards will go into effect in early August.

The heat rule was originally expected to be implemented in 2019, but was delayed by five years. When enacted, the policy will protect nearly 1.4 million warehouse workers, restaurant workers, people with manufacturing jobs and others who work indoors from dangerously hot working conditions.

The rules would require employers to monitor workers for heat-related illnesses and provide them with water, breaks and cool places when indoor temperatures reach 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If conditions reach 87 degrees, employers may need to take additional measures, such as implementing more frequent breaks, adjusting schedules, slowing the pace of work, or providing cooling devices.

Once these rules go into effect, California will join Oregon and Minnesota as the only states with policies protecting indoor workers from the heat. In 2006, California adopted thermal standards for outdoor workers, including agricultural and construction workers.

Meanwhile, Texas and Florida have recent state laws workplace protections worn from excessive heat by prohibiting the local grant of cities and counties regulations to protect outdoor workersfor example, mandatory water breaks or time requirements in the shade.

Labor advocacy groups are calling for national thermal workplace standards for indoor and outdoor workers, but the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration has yet to adopt such regulations.

Advocates say regulations like California’s are needed more urgently than ever as climate change maxes heat waves are more frequent and intense.

“It’s a huge deal,” said AnaStacia Nicol Wright, policy manager at WorkSafe, an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit worker advocacy organization. “Workers need these protections as soon as possible.”

However, the state’s new requirements won’t protect all incarcerated workers: officers at state and local correctional facilities, as well as other prison staff, are currently excluded. In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration raised the issue of how much it would cost to bring California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation into compliance, so standards were revised to fix the state’s prison system.

Some worker advocacy groups believe the temperature limits set in California’s policy are still too high.

“The risk of heat illness is a function of both temperature and humidity, and it’s very physical exertion,” said Tim Shadix, legal director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an advocacy group based in Ontario, California. “If you’re a warehouse worker and you’re lifting heavy boxes for an 8- or 10-hour shift, even in the 70s you can be at risk of heat illness.”

Shadix added that he hopes California’s rules will prompt other parts of the country to adopt similar rules.

“The problem is getting worse as climate change increases our summer temperatures, so it’s critical to have more models to see progress and inspire other states to follow suit,” he said. “And I think it provides the momentum at the federal level that we really need because we need to make sure that workers across the country are protected.”

Heat kills more people in the United States each year than any other extreme weather event. In 2021, from 36, in 2022, 43 workplace deaths were recorded due to exposure to environmental heat. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Robert Moutrie, senior policy attorney for the California Chamber of Commerce, said employers are “going into compliance mode,” but added that some industries, such as restaurants, will bear the brunt because kitchens are inherently hot, indoor spaces.

Moutrie also said small businesses have raised concerns about how best to implement the rules, especially if they take effect in a few months.

“It’s not a lot of time to change your internal practices, train your staff, talk to your lawyers about it,” he said. “All of this takes time and resources.”

As for workers in California prisons and jails, Cal/OSHA said in a statement that it plans to “move forward with an industry-specific regulatory proposal for local and state correctional facilities that takes into account the unique operating realities of these workplaces.” However, he did not provide a specific timeline.

Wright expressed frustration with the tens of thousands of prison workers who were excluded from the regulations.

“It’s a huge part of the workforce,” he said. “But heat is a problem for workers and non-workers alike. “A lot of prisons don’t have central air conditioning, so if they were forced to do something to ensure that the temperature was safe for the staff in the prisons, it would also benefit the prisoners.”

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By 37ci3

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