California’s outdoor workers could have a permanent heat illness prevention regulation before the end of the year if the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approves a final draft of the directive at its Dec. 15 meeting.
A 120-day emergency regulation has been in place since Aug. 22. The temporary measure mandated that outdoor employees and supervisors, at risk to experience heat stress, receive training on how to prevent heat illness and what to do should it occur. It also reinforced the existing law requiring water be available at all times and ensure that workers understand the importance of frequent consumption of water.
In addition, the guideline required access to shade area for any worker suffering from heat illness or to prevent the onset of illness.
Dean Fryer, a spokesman of Cal-OSHA, said the emergency regulation was prompted by 11 confirmed fatalities in the agriculture and construction industries since this past July.
“We had been working on a heat regulation for some time, [for] at least ten years,” he said. “It was a back and forth type of thing that never really got resolved and when we looked back at the statistics of fatalities over the years, there were some years where there were no fatalities, there were some years where there were several. I think this year was probably the year that had the most.”
Marti Stroup-Fisher, the safety, health, and regulatory director of the Associated General Contractors of California, said her organization and other stakeholders have been involved in shaping the final regulation that Cal-OSHA will likely vote on in December.
“We are currently working on a permanent regulation with reps from management, labor and other industry people to craft something that we can all live with,” she said. “We don’t even really have a draft out yet, but I expect that there will be something within the month that will actually be on paper that we can all reach consensus on. There will be some change from the emergency regulation, but not a lot.”
She said most contractors already have heat illness prevention plans in place, so complying with the state shouldn’t be costly or difficult.
“Basically the provisions of the emergency regulation are things that we already do in construction,” Fisher said. “We already provide water, we look out for our folks, we watch the heat, we do the training, we just don’t do it in the same format as the regulation. Our issues with the emergency regulation are not with its intent or function but how it is laid out. There are some difficulties with it in terms of its implementation in the way it is written, but the concept of it we are very supportive of, because we are already doing it.”
Fryer said a 120-day extension is an option if the final draft is not ready for the Dec. 15 meeting. For more information about the regulation, visit http://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllnessInfo.html. CEG