CalChamber, Coalition Opposed to Proposed Heat Illness Regulations

Sep 25 2014 - Heat Illness - HRWatchdog

Representatives from the California Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of businesses are in San Diego today voicing their concerns to the Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board on proposed regulatory changes to California’s unique heat illness prevention regulations.

The group, known as the Heat Illness Prevention Coalition and comprised of almost 100 organizations, is concerned that this proposal goes too far and will hurt employers, while not creating safer outdoor workplaces in California.

In general, the coalition is concerned that the proposed changes are unnecessary, overly burdensome, and would be disruptive to employers already complying with the current requirements.

No Evidence of Necessity

California adopted the first heat illness prevention regulation in the nation in 2005. To date, California remains the only state to regulate the prevention of heat illness.

Cal/OSHA has neither demonstrated the need for such a far-reaching revision of the heat illness prevention standard nor provided any evidence of necessity to justify these proposed changes. There is no supporting data from enforcement activities, citations, injuries, or illnesses. There is an absence of any indication that a problem has arisen that is directly related to each proposed rule change. The agency has not identified specific provisions of the existing regulation as deficient based on field experience or data where the current regulation was demonstrably inadequate to prevent a heat illness or fatality.

This proposal is unprecedented in its overly prescriptive approach. This micro-managing of workplaces is in conflict with Cal/OSHA’s long-standing practice to provide performance rather than prescriptive standards. The proposal is laden with traps for employers so that they can never know when they are in compliance and can always be found to have not done enough.

The Coalition urges Cal/OSHA to examine and thoroughly analyze the data to determine if the current regulation is deficient and specifically in what areas before moving forward with any changes. Once adequate analysis is complete, a collaborative effort through a rational discussion with stakeholders should occur to identify any changes needed in the regulation and the best way to accomplish any changes.

Lacks Clarity and Creates Traps for Employers

The manner in which this newly revised regulation is drafted will lead to unnecessary compliance challenges for employers. The proposal lacks coherence and clarity and is disjointed in its flow, impeding employers’ ability to understand and comply with its requirements. Some of the requirements are vague, while others are complicated, applying to some industries and not others.

Because of the proposal’s lack of clarity and prescriptive approach, employers striving in good faith to comply will be unable to do so and will never be certain that they are in full compliance.

With this proposal, Cal/OSHA is telling compliant employers and entire industries that have invested significant training and resources to overhaul their program and approaches to the prevention of heat illness without providing any justification for that mandate. Both employers and employees need to understand the need for changes and the resulting anticipated benefits in order to commit fully to compliance.

Next Steps

Following the public hearing, California laws regarding rulemaking allow revisions to be made to the proposal and then a subsequent 15 day notice issued for further public comment.  It is the Coalition’s expectation that a final rule will be proposed to the Standards Board for adoption and implemented before next summer.

Action Needed

The Coalition is urging businesses to send letters to the Standards Board, even though the comment period ends September 25, your voice can still be heard.

 Staff Contact: Marti Fisher

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