Kudos to Cal/OSHA for taking steps to protect workers from wildfire smoke and heat-related illness. Last week, they enacted an emergency regulation to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke, which remains in effect through January 28, 2020.
With a hot July behind us and even more hot temperatures looming in August, the risk of wildfire will only continue to grow, putting many outdoor workers at risk.
Under the new emergency regulation, employers must take steps to identify harmful exposure to airborne particulate matter at the start of each shift and periodically thereafter, and take steps to reduce harmful exposure (if feasible) by relocating to another location. If they're unable to reduce exposure, they must provide employees with masks and training on the effects of wildfire smoke.
In addition to the emergency regulation, Cal/OSHA has been hard at work drafting new regulations to protect workers from indoor heat exposure. While the regulations aim to help workers in warehouses, factories and other commonly hot workplaces, they also aim to protect those in less thought of conditions such as office buildings without access to air conditioning in the Bay Area or restaurant workers in hot kitchens.
The draft standard would implement regulations that apply to all indoor work areas with temperatures of 82 degrees or higher, or that reach a heat index of 87 degrees. Employers would be required to closely monitor conditions and provide plenty of water and access to cool-down areas should temperatures rise above the proposed levels.
After several rounds of public comment, the latest draft was posted in April with no further changes anticipated prior to rulemaking.
California should lead the nation in protecting workers from heat illness and we hope the new standard is enacted soon.