Indoor Heat Rule Moves to Next Step After Unusual Cal/OSHA Board Vote

indoor heat

The proposed regulation to prevent heat illness in indoor workplaces awaits an uncertain fate at the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) following a tempestuous meeting at which the Cal/OSHA Standards Board held a vote on the rule despite being specifically advised by the California Finance Department not to vote on the matter.

In the normal regulatory process, the OAL provides a largely cursory review of proposed regulations, verifying that they have met various procedural steps — such as preparing the proper paperwork and getting sign-off from necessary agencies. The indoor heat regulation, however, is going to be the rare case where OAL’s review could be hugely consequential.

Prior to the vote on the indoor heat regulation, Cal/OSHA was advised by the Department of Finance that there were considerable financial concerns related to the state costs of the regulation — and therefore, Department of Finance would be unable to give a procedurally necessary sign-off on the regulation.

Now, with the Board having voted in favor of the regulation, the question will be: what does the OAL do next? Legally, OAL has up to 30 days to approve or reject the regulation that the Board adopted — and unless the Department of Finance changes course and provides sign-off for the fiscal side, it seems likely OAL will reject the indoor heat regulation.

If that happens, then what the Standards Board or proponents do next remains unclear. The next regular meeting of the Board is scheduled for April 18.

Background on Indoor Heat Regulation

The proposed indoor heat regulation sets requirements, with some exceptions, for most indoor work areas where the temperature reaches or exceeds 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

A California Chamber of Commerce-led coalition has submitted written comments and oral testimony at each step of the process. The coalition represents employers large and small across diverse industries and has recommended revisions to each draft of the proposed regulation to clarify employers’ compliance obligations and better protect workers in indoor workplaces from the risk of heat illness.

In response to the latest draft rule (issued on December 22, 2023), the CalChamber coalition questioned the temperature threshold and proposed exemptions in the section of the rule about rarely used spaces (such as a storage shed where tools are located). The coalition also pointed to a potential conflict between the indoor heat rule and existing court interpretations of the outdoor heat regulation.

March 21 Hearing

Although all stakeholders had expected the Standards Board to adopt the latest draft rule at the March 21 hearing, Board Chair Dave Thomas opened the meeting by announcing the vote would be postponed.

The reason, he said, was that the Department of Finance had expressed concern about the potential cost of the rule to the state and would not approve the required fiscal document.

The unexpected announcement led to angry protestors interrupting the meeting briefly and Board members complaining about being told not to vote.

After the vocal protestors were escorted out of the room, the meeting resumed and a few more members of the public were allowed to comment. Next came a spirited exchange between the Board and staff about why the Department of Finance was not approving the required statements about the rule’s financial impact.

The Board chair then called for a vote on the rule and the Board approved the proposed rule with a unanimous vote.

Next Steps

OAL has up to 30 days to approve or reject the regulation that the Board adopted without the necessary financial impact statement.

The next regular meeting of the Board is scheduled for April 18.

Staff Contact: Robert Moutrie

Previous articleCalChamber Engages with Regional Allies
Next articleHow to Count Months with Company for State Family Rights Act Leave
Robert Moutrie joined the CalChamber in March 2019 as a policy advocate. He was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of his efforts on behalf of members. He leads CalChamber advocacy on workplace safety, legal reform and protection, tourism, insurance, unemployment insurance, immigration and education. He is CalChamber's expert on the COVID-19 workplace regulation and was closely involved in its drafting and amendments process at Cal/OSHA. Moutrie has represented clients on matters such as consumer fraud litigation, civil rights, employment law claims, tort claims, and other business-related issues in federal and state courts. He previously served as an associate attorney at the Oakland-based firm of Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson. Moutrie earned a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. with honors from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. See full bio.