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Heat Hazards

California is heating up, and the heat is impacting workers.

While there are Cal/OSHA regulations governing outdoor heat protection, there is much work to do to fully protect Californians who work outdoors. Furthermore, there is no standard to address indoor heat, which can be just as hazardous.

3/21 Standards Board Hearing: Indoor Heat Standard

On March 21st in San Diego, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board will be hearing testimony about the Indoor Heat Standard. Workers and advocates are encouraged to call in to this meeting (or show up in person, if possible).

The following video is an edit of the worker testimonies from the Standards Board meeting in May of 2023, presenting firsthand evidence of the great need for strict limits on how hot it should be allowed to get inside of buildings and vehicles, and how long workers should be allowed to do strenuous labor in high heat.

In 2016, California passed legislation directing Cal/OSHA to develop a standard on heat illness prevention in indoor workplaces by 2019. Since the rulemaking process began in early 2017, Worksafe has advocated to make the proposed indoor heat standard as strong as possible. Top priorities have been for the standard to cover all industries, to account for humidity and other heat illness risk factors such as clothing and exertion, and to require control measures at a lower temperature than the 90 degrees Fahrenheit repeatedly proposed by Cal/OSHA. Strong organizing by workers and advocates has won improvements in all of these areas to date.

In 2019, Cal/OSHA issued an updated draft standard and stated it did not anticipate making any further changes prior to the next stage of formal rulemaking. As of late 2022, despite the legislative deadline, there is still no standard in place.

Heat is considered one of the deadliest climate-change driven hazards. In April 2022, Governor Newsom released Protecting Californians From Extreme Heat: A State Action Plan to Build Community Resilience. Continuing heat waves are projected to double or triple heat-related deaths within forty years [Ostro, B., Rauch, S., & Green, S.  (2011) Quantifying the health impacts of future changes in temperature in California. Environmental Research, 111(8), 1258–1264.] 

Increasing temperatures lead to exacerbated risk of wildfires. Check out our page on wildfire smoke policy. Please reach out if you’d like to connect on climate change, heat or wildfire campaigns.