A bill making its way through the California state legislature could potentially set new protections for employees working in “ultrahigh” heat outdoors.
If passed, Assembly Bill 2243 would require that the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board consider revising the heat illness standard for workers in industries like agriculture and construction when outdoor temperatures exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
The board would need to consider requiring employers to ensure workers get paid rest breaks every hour, have more accessible cool water than normal, and that employers pay closer attention to workers for symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Employers could also be required to distribute their heat illness prevention plans, which they are already required to have, to workers when they are first hired and when temperatures first exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit or on an annual basis.
Assembly Bill 2243 would also require the standards board to consider lowering the limit the quality of the air must exceed before “respiratory protective equipment becomes mandatory.”
The bill, which was introduced by Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Luz Rivas, passed the Assembly 47-19 on Wednesday and was sent to the Senate for consideration.
California already legally requires certain safeguards from heat-related illness for outdoor workers like making sure employers provide at least one quart of water per employee per hour.