What is Cal OSHA Proposed Rule for Indoor Heat?

Cal OSHA’s newly proposed indoor heat rule, “Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment” (Title 8, section 3396), has moved closer to approval and has potential for most California employers with indoor temperature is greater than 82°F to implement as early as August 1, 2024. In June 2024, the rule was unanimously approved by the Cal OSHA Standards Board who requested an expedited review and finalization from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). The Cal OSHA Deputy Chief also requested an immediate enactment of the regulation for implementation (August 1). If the OAL elects not to make effective immediately, employers can expect an effective date of October 1, 2024.

The new rule would establish safety measurements of indoor workplaces to mitigate worker exposure to the risk of heat illness by:

  • Provide Clean Drinking Water: provide access to potable water that is fresh, suitably cool, and free of charge; located as close as possible to work areas and cool-down areas.
  • Access to Cool-Down Areas: in an area that is kept at less than 82°F and shielded from other high-radiant heat sources; large enough to accommodate the number of workers on rest breaks so they can sit comfortably without touching each other; and close as possible to work areas.
  • Cool-Down Rest Periods: encourage workers to take preventative cool-down rest periods; allow workers who as for a cool-down rest period to take one; monitor workers taking such rest periods for symptoms of heat-related illness.
  • Assessment and Control Measures: measure the temperature and heat index and record whichever is greater whenever the temperature or heat index reaches 87°F (or temperature reaches 82°F for workers working in clothing that restricts heat removal or high-radiant-heat areas); implement control measures to keep workers safe. Feasible engineering controls must be implemented first.
  • Emergency Response Procedures: provide first aid or emergency response to any workers showing heat illness signs or symptoms, including contacting emergency medical services
  • Acclimatization: closely observe new workers and newly assigned workers working in hot areas during a 14-day acclimatization period, as well as all workers working during a heat wave.
  • Training: employers must provide training to both workers and supervisors.
  • Heat Illness Prevention Plan: establish, implement and maintain an effective written Indoor Heat Illness Prevention Plan that includes procedures for providing drinking water, cool-down areas, preventative rest periods, close observation during acclimatization, assessment and measurement of heat, training, prompt emergency response, and feasible control measures.

Under federal OSHA’s General Duty Clause (section 5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. Many U.S. states run their own OSHA-approved State Plans. Some states have adopted standards that cover hazards not addressed by federal OSHA standards. The following states have standards for heat exposure:

RHP Risk Management’s staff of experienced Industrial Hygienists provide guidance to employers implementing occupational heat and safety plans. For more on RHP’s expertise in heat stress, see Rod Harvey’s, P.E., CIH, CSP, CHMM interviews:

  • Business Insurance on how heat events can elevate property and liability risks and risk management steps can be taken to mitigate heat events;
  • Missouri Employers Mutual podcast about the warning signs of heat stress, employee training, and solutions to working in hot conditions;
  • Greenberg Traurig podcast discussion on OSHA’s National Emphasis Program related to heat hazards, effective employer prevention strategies, controls, training and occupational heat stress litigation.

Contact RHP Risk Management for an initial consultation or call (866) 481-8188.