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On June 20 the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved an indoor heat standard to protect indoor workers from heat illness. The new regulation will require indoor workplaces to be cooled below 87 degrees Fahrenheit if feasible when employees are present, and below 82 degrees if feasible in places where workers wear protective clothing that restricts heat removal or work in high radiant heat areas.

Back in March, CalMatters reported that the rule was expected to be finally voted into place by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board at a meeting in San Diego. But state officials ordered that it be pulled from the agenda after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration suddenly withdrew a required stamp of approval, saying it learned the rule would cost state prisons much more money than anticipated.

For state government, the standards board last year estimated the Department of Corrections would need to pay less than $1 million in the rule’s first year and less than $500,000 annually after that to comply. About half of the state’s 1,500 correctional institutions are either already climate controlled or located in areas that won’t be hot enough to trigger the heat rule, the Department of Industrial Relations stated. That was after finance officials told the department in 2021 that it underestimated prison costs; the department said its updated analysis resulted in double the cost to the state.

But State Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer told CalMatters the finance department received more updated information in recent weeks that costs to the corrections department would be in the billions of dollars instead. He could not explain what could account for such a drastic difference in estimates in just one year, saying “we’ve been trying to get an understanding of that.”

Then on April 18, Cal/OSHA said it planed to pass rules this summer, except for workers at prisons.

As planned, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, on June 20, 2024, approved California Code of Regulations, Title 8, section 3396, “Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment.” The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) has 30 working days to review and approve or deny the proposal. The Standards Board requested that the regulation take effect immediately after OAL approval.

Local and state correctional facilities as well as emergency operations directly involved in the protection of life or property are exempted from the proposed regulation for indoor heat. Cal/OSHA is in the process of developing an industry-specific regulation for local and state correctional facilities to protect their workers from indoor heat hazards. In the interim, for these exempted employers, Cal/OSHA will continue investigating potential indoor heat violations under existing regulations such as the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (Title 8, Section 3203) and Water Supply (Title 8, Section 3363).

Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment regulation applies to most indoor workplaces, such as restaurants, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities. For indoor workplaces where the temperature reaches 87 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must take steps to protect workers from heat illness. Some of the requirements include providing water, rest, cool-down areas, methods for cooling down the work areas under certain conditions, and training.

Employers may be covered under both the indoor and outdoor regulations if they have both indoor and outdoor workplaces. See the Comparison Chart of Indoor and Outdoor Heat Illness Prevention Standards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, a seven-member body appointed by the Governor, is the standards-setting agency within the Cal/OSHA program. The Standards Board’s objective is to adopt reasonable and enforceable standards that are at least as effective as federal standards. The Standards Board also has the responsibility to grant or deny applications for variances from adopted standards and respond to petitions for new or revised standards.

There are more resources for employers and workers on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the informational website, as well as a Heat Illness Prevention online tool. The advisory includes a toll free number for workers who have questions about heat illness prevention in indoor and outdoor places of employment can speak with a Cal/OSHA representative, 1-833-579-0927, and information on how to file confidential complaints with Cal/OSHA district offices about workplace safety and health hazards.