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California’s ongoing saga concerning work-related heat protections

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | workers' compensation

Most workers in California – regardless of whether they are classified as full-time or part-time workers, and regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented – are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer employment-related physical harm. That’s an empowering reality. Yet, it’s certainly ideal for employers to prevent harmful circumstances when they can.

Some kinds of employment-related physical harm are easier to prevent than others. While it is ideal for workers to avoid injury, some employers are simply unwilling to “go the extra mile” to protect their workforce unless the state tells them that they have to.

And, unfortunately, sometimes the state is unwilling to go the extra mile on behalf of workers, especially when employers push back against safety regulations that could prove costly or inconvenient.

What’s going on?

Take, for example, the state’s ongoing saga when it comes to protecting outdoor workers from the safety-related consequences of heat exposure. In late March, a regulatory board was poised to approve landmark heat safety regulations, only to pull back at the last minute after the state’s finance department voiced objections about how much implementing these protections would cost public entities, including the state’s prisons.

It seems that California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is going to amend its proposed heat rule concerning indoor risks to exclude correctional facilities. This amendment is expected to pave the way for approval of the overall heat safety rules in several weeks. Yet, the implementation of this rule will take time, meaning that many California workers – both outdoor and indoor – will likely continue to face unacceptable heat-related risks while on the job during the summer of 2024.

As such, it is going to continue to be important for workers to remember that they may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits if they experience heat-related injury or illness on the job. The ideal of effectively preventing such harm has not yet been realized.


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