California Acts On Heat Exposure In The Indoor Work Environment

An efficient and effective management of health and safety programs in the workplace can be a time consuming job. The best option for companies is to seek assistance from professional health and safety specialists to ensure the effectiveness of the health and safety programs being implemented. The specialist will also ensure compliance with fire prevention requirements.

In California, the conversation right now is not centred on fire hazards in the workplace but occupational heat exposure in indoor environments. Employers and regulators are not sure on the best path that can be undertaken considering that California is the leader on issues of heat exposure and the prevention of injuries and illnesses resulting from exposure to heat.

S.B. 1167 was recently signed by California Governor Jerry Brown which directs California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to adopt a standard for the protection of health and safety of workers in indoor environments against heat-related illnesses and injuries. However, the legislation was not clear on several points like what type of workplaces is covered, how indoor temperatures can be measured and how the heat issues can be mitigated effectively.

Aside from indoor heat exposure, California has also lowered the threshold of outdoor heat exposure to 80oF. Most states have kept silent on issues of heat exposure and they have not implemented any guidelines to control heat exposure.

In September 2014, Minnesota has addressed the issue on heat exposure through Workroom Ventilation and Temperature in Places of Employment rule to restrict work-based environmental temperature and work intensity. According to Minnesota OSHA in their heat stress guide, indoor and outdoor heat stress can be an issue even in a state that experiences frigid winter temperatures because workers do not have the opportunity to be acclimatized when temperatures vary up to 30 degrees from one day to the next during summer. However, workplace variations make it difficult to craft an indoor heat requirement for companies.

While a safety officer usually fulfils the responsibility to meet health and safety requirements, it is important for companies to have a health & safety specialist who can provide direction and guidance on health and safety issues. The system can be reviewed to accurately reflect the effectiveness and compliance of the health and safety system.