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Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Standard

 

 

 

April 2, 2024

Governor Gavin Newsom
State of California
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE:       Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Standard

Dear Governor Newsom:

The California Labor Federation, along with the undersigned groups, write in strong support of the Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Standard, and to urge you to act immediately to make sure that it is fully implemented with no exemptions of any worker or workplace before summer.

The California Labor Federation, along with many other unions, has urged action to protect workers from indoor heat since 2016, when SB 1167 (Mendoza) was signed into law. We know that high heat leads to a wide range of health issues and workplace injuries, and without proper care and precaution, can lead to heat stroke and death. Eight years have passed, and workers have suffered injuries and death that could have been prevented.

At the March 21, 2024, Cal/OSHA Standards meeting, the Board announced that the Administration decided to pull the standard approval vote from the agenda without any justification for doing so.

With the swipe of a pen, the State of California can easily prevent workplace injuries and deaths brought on by indoor heat. The Board recognized this and decided to stand with workers by voting unanimously to approve the standard. Now it is up to the Administration to act. If the State fails to take immediate action to implement the indoor heat standard through emergency rule-making or other methods, then workers will be denied protections with summer on the horizon. This means workers in restaurants, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, and warehouses would continue suffering every day without any real, enforceable protections from indoor heat exposure. Additionally, implementing protections for educators and workers in our schools will also help students as an indoor heat standard will significantly improve students’ learning environments.

To be clear, as we urge action on this standard, we demand that it be fully implemented as the Board voted to approve it; without exceptions or exemptions for any workplace. It is imperative that we extend protections to all indoor workers, regardless of who employs them. And, regardless of what action the Administration decides to take, the indoor heat standard must be implemented before torching temperatures arrive. Summer is coming, and time is a luxury that workers cannot afford.

The new indoor heat standard proposal is vital and immediately necessary to protect workers in a wide range of industries throughout California. Workers have long suffered from heat illnesses brought on by repugnant indoor working conditions without any consistent indoor standards to hold employers accountable. The 2021 SRIA for the indoor heat standard revealed that there had been 7 reported deaths related to indoor heat stress from 2010-2017. However, we know that the real number is significantly larger because accurate reporting is difficult to attain when the most vulnerable workers are the ones affected, and they fear reporting their illnesses, grievances, or deaths. This standard is long overdue and further delays to protect workers with “reasonable and enforceable standards that will ensure a safe and healthful workplace for California workers” are unacceptable.

What was included in this indoor heat proposal; things like close observation for acclimatizing employees, access to cool-down areas, and access to cool drinking water, are not excessively high bars for employers to meet. These are necessities. And we know this is true, because we have lacked consistent standards like these, and workers have continually suffered. The most vulnerable workers continue to bear the brunt of high heat exposure while employers earn profits and deny that their employees are sweating and thirsty.

California workers, those who make the state run daily, deserve better protections, but they demand the minimum. Refusing to act on this standard puts a ghostly comma at the end of every passing day, letting workers know that their suffering and their vulnerability will continue. The State of California is committing a grave injustice by failing to protect workers. Human lives have a cost that cannot be calculated for a bottom line.

After workers took time out of their days to echo this message during the March 21st meeting, the Board did the right thing: it chose to approve the indoor heat standard to fulfill its stated mission to protect workers with reasonable and enforceable standards. We urge the Administration to act and do the same. Another scorching summer is approaching, and workers deserve these protections. The Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Standard is reasonable, enforceable, and necessary. By delaying it further, we guarantee that California will see more preventable worker deaths and injuries.

Sincerely,

California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Worksafe
United Food & Commercial Workers, Western States Council
California Federation of Teachers
United Steelworkers, Local 675
Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation (SMART) – Transportation Division
United Auto Workers
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
Climate Resolve
Center on Policy Initiatives
Lideres Campesinas
CLEAN Carwash Worker Center
Working Partnerships USA
Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)
Warehouse Worker Resource Center
KIWA
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Central Valley Empowerment Alliance
Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO)
Valley Voices
California Nurses Association
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Ellen Widess, former Chief of Cal OSHA
National Employment Law Project
National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)
Jobs with Justice San Francisco
AFSCME, AFL-CIO
Labor Network for Sustainability
AFSCME CA
AFSCME 3299
Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Labor For Climate Jobs
USWW
Jakara Movement
Nurse Alliance of SEIU California
Sheet Metal Workers’, Local 104
Trabajadores Unidos Workers United
UC Merced Community and Labor Center
Asha Sharma
Pesticide Action Network
California Professional Firefighters
Northern California District Council of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union
SEIU, Local 1000
United Steelworkers, District 12
United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals
Warehouse Workers Resource Center
ROC LA
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers

Cc: Ann Patterson, Cabinet Secretary, Governor’s Office
Mary Hernandez, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary, Governor’s Office
Christine Aurre, Deputy Legislative Affairs Secretary, Governor’s Office
Kevin Matulich, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Governor’s Office
President pro Tempore Mike McGuire, California State Senate
Speaker Robert Rivas, California State Assembly
Cesar Diaz, President pro Tempore’s Office
Tim Rainey, Speaker’s Office
Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas
Assemblymember Liz Ortega

SM: OPEIU 29 AFL CIO