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Cal/OSHA continues work on indoor heat rule

When it comes to the topic of heat-related illness on the job, most of us inevitably envision those sectors in which work is conducted outdoors, including construction, landscaping and, of course, agriculture.

While this is certainly not an incorrect depiction, it is somewhat incomplete. Indeed, there are many sectors in which employees are at an equally high risk of falling victim to heat-related illness despite working exclusively indoors. 

In fact, the problem is so acute that state lawmakers passed a measure last year, Senate Bill 1167, mandating that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health initiate the rulemaking process to devise and approve a new indoor heat rule.

While Cal/OSHA introduced an initial draft proposal back in February, it was roundly criticized by multiple parties, including the influential California Chamber of Commerce, which indicated that it would prove both "overly complex and confusing" for employers.

In recent developments, Cal/OSHA has now released another proposal, which calls for employers to initiate the necessary cool-down safety measures for employees -- rest periods, cold water, etc. -- once the internal temperature hits 85 degrees. This differs from the previous version, which called for the temperature range to be between 80 to 90 degrees dependent upon the strenuousness of the labor being performed.

Thus far, the revised measure, which will affect every employment setting from foundries and recycling plants to warehouses and restaurant kitchens, has hardly drawn universal praise.

In fact, work safety advocacy groups have expressed concerns that the proposed rule is too simplistic, overlooking the fact that the heat index of a particular worksite could climb well above 100 degrees before an employer would even need to take cool-down safety measures.

It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are made in the coming months. Cal/OSHA has indicated that it wants a final rule in effect by January 1, 2019.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you've been seriously injured at work or diagnosed with a debilitating work-related illness, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options as soon as possible.

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