California’s AB 2243 Would Revise Heat Illness and Wildfire Smoke Standards
On February 10, 2022, California Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, along with assembly members Luz Rivas and Robert Rivas, introduced Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2243, which would place a number of requirements on the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) in the areas of heat illness and wildfire smoke. The bill was amended on March 21, 2022, and it was re-referred to the Committee on Labor and Employment for a hearing on March 30, 2022.
The bill would require Cal/OSHA to submit a rulemaking proposal to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to revise the regulation on heat illness “to include an ultrahigh heat standard for employees in outdoor places of employment for heat in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.” The revised standard would include provisions such as “additional mandatory work breaks,” access to cool water, shade with cooling features, and “increased employer monitoring of employees for symptoms of heat-related illnesses.” Further, employers would be “require[d] … to provide a copy of the Heat Illness Prevention Plan to all new employees when temperatures exceed 80 degrees and to all employees on an annual basis.”
The bill would also require that Cal/OSHA make certain changes to the wildfire smoke regulation, 8 CCR Section 5141.1. The regulation, originally adopted in 2019, placed certain requirements on workplaces where the Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5 was at least 151 and where the employer should “reasonably anticipate employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.” The bill would require that Cal/OSHA remove the “reasonably anticipate” requirement, thereby narrowing the scope in which the regulation would apply. The legislation also would require Cal/OSHA to lower the threshold at which respiratory equipment becomes mandatory from an AQI for PM2.5 of 500 or greater to “at a maximum, an AQI of 200 or more.”
The bill would require Cal/OSHA to submit the proposals to the standards board before January 1, 2024, so that the standards board may review and adopt revised standards before July 1, 2024.