Exhausted employee at warehouse

Indoor Heat Illness Prevention Rules Likely to Take Effect Soon

Posted on: June 7th, 2024 by Leaders' Choice Staff No Comments

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board has voted to approve new heat illness prevention regulations that will require some workplaces to make significant adjustments to their operations in order to comply.

The vote has been challenged, and at the last minute the California Department of Finance withdrew its approval of the regulatory changes due to a lack of full analysis on their potential financial impact on state entities, particularly state-operated correctional facilities.

However, Cal/OSHA is already in the process of creating a carveout for these entities to appease the Finance Department.

The workplace safety agency is still aiming to have the heat illness protection standard take effect before this summer. But even if that is delayed, the writing is on the wall for these new rules, and they will eventually come into effect.

The rules will require applicable employers to take steps to protect their workers and the most likely solution would be installing air conditioning, as well as complying with setting up cool-down areas. The Standards Board wrote in its proposal: “There is likely to be a particular need to reduce temperatures in large warehouses, manufacturing and production facilities, greenhouses, and wholesale and retail distribution centers.”

Other facilities that would likely also need to install HVAC units include restaurant kitchens and dry cleaners. They may also need to improve air circulation in their operations.


The rules

The indoor heat illness prevention standard applies to most indoor workplaces where the temperatures reach at least 82 degrees.

Applicable employers will need to create and maintain a written indoor heat illness prevention plan on their own, or one that is incorporated into an existing injury and illness prevention program.

The plan should include provisions for the following:

82-degree trigger — When temperatures indoors are 82 degrees or higher, employers must:

  • Have and maintain one or more cool-down areas when employees are present, which must be kept at a temperature below 82 degrees.
  • Allow and encourage workers to take preventive cool-down rests in a cool-down area when they feel the need to do so. They should be monitored for signs of heat illness while in these areas.
  • Provide drinking water near the areas employees are working.
  • Observe all employees during heat waves when a workplace has no measures for controlling the effects of outdoor heat on indoor temperatures.


87-degree trigger — When the temperature exceeds 87 degrees — or 82 degrees if employees are wearing clothing that restricts heat removal (such as protective clothing) — employers must:

  • Measure the temperature and heat index, and identify and evaluate all other environmental risk factors for heat illness. Firms must keep records of the temperature/heat index.
  • Implement control measures to minimize the risk of heat illness. This may include:
    • Using air conditioners, swamp coolers, ventilation or other measures to reduce the air temperature (engineering controls);
    • Adjusting work procedures, practices or schedules to minimize exposure to heat, such as changing shifts to start earlier and avoid the hottest parts of the day (administrative controls); or
    • Using personal heat-protective equipment, such as water- or air-cooled garments or heat-reflective clothing.
  • Observe new employees for 14 days when working under these conditions.


Emergency response — Employers must develop emergency response procedures for staff to follow in case a worker shows signs of heat illness or goes into distress. Procedures must include:

  • An effective communication system to allow workers to contact a supervisor or emergency services.
  • Steps for responding to signs and symptoms of heat illness, including first aid and providing emergency medical services.
  • Emergency response procedures for severe heat illness.
  • Monitoring employees exhibiting signs of heat illness, and not leaving them alone without offering them on-site first aid or medical services.


Training — Employees and supervisors will need to be trained on:

  • Personal risk factors for heat illness.
  • Their employer’s procedures for complying with the regulations.
  • The importance of frequent water consumption.


The takeaway

As mentioned, at this point there is no definitive date for these regulations taking effect, but Cal/OSHA insists they will be ready before summer starts in late June.

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