Indoor Heat Illness: Coalition Criticizes Draft Rule as Too Complex, Burdensome

A coalition of employer groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce this week detailed its objections to a draft regulation to prevent heat illness in indoor workplaces.

Coalition members represent employers large and small across many diverse industries. Many members were involved with the development and implementation of the outdoor heat illness regulation, and have significant experience with how to effectively prevent heat illness.

Although legislation enacted in 2016 (SB 1167; Mendoza; D-Artesia; Chapter 839) mandates the indoor heat illness rule be developed, the coalition recommends that data be provided so the regulation can reflect where and in what manner the exposure exists.

The draft proposal creates a program to prevent heat illness for indoor employees that is unnecessarily burdensome, expensive, and overly complex and confusing, the coalition points out in its April 4 letter to state officials in the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), Department of Industrial Relations.

Very few small and medium businesses will be able to comply with this complex proposal without being forced to seek the assistance of an expert consultant, which will be a substantial burden for businesses. The proposal also is unnecessarily prescriptive, going much further than the outdoor heat illness prevention regulation.

Primary Concerns

Too complex. A simpler approach is likely to result in more, not less, employee protection. Greater simplicity will lead to greater protection because greater simplicity will improve employer understanding and compliance.

Too costly. Many employers will not have the expertise to interpret the complex requirements and would have to hire costly staff or consultants. Some employers may not have the requisite resources and could be forced out of business or to cut back. The economic impact of the rule would exceed $50 million, making it a “major regulation” requiring an economic impact analysis.

Overly broad. Indoor workplaces where no hazard is present should not be required to implement policies, procedures, and controls to prevent heat illness. The coalition recommends changes to the proposed scope and application of the rule so it is more appropriately targeted and employers can identify when they are subject to the regulation.

For example, the coalition suggests the indoor heat illness standard apply to employees who work more than half their time indoors and no more than one hour consecutively outdoors.

More stringent than outdoor standard. The requirements for indoor heat exposure are more onerous than those for outdoor heat exposure and not proportionate to the risk posed.

Follow Existing Approaches

The coalition recommends a performance-based approach to the regulation such as that of the Injury and Illness Prevention Program and the outdoor heat illness prevention program. The first step that employers should take is to assess their indoor workplaces for employee exposure to the risk of heat illness. If the employer identifies the risk is present, then the employer must develop a program. If the risk was evaluated and determined not to be present, then the employer would not be subject to the requirements of the heat illness prevention program for indoor employees.

Join Coalition

Readers interested in joining the coalition working to change the indoor heat illness regulation, please contact Marti Fisher, CalChamber policy advocate, marti.fisher@calchamber.com.

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