Despite Last Minute Attempt by Dept. of Finance to Further Delay the Protections, Board Passes the New Standard

SAN DIEGO - In a dramatic hearing of a usually obscure state board, worker after worker testified about the urgent need for protections from dangerous temperatures for people who work indoors. Following testimony and protest, the members of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved the new standard unanimously. 

The vote came despite the agenda item being pulled late Wednesday evening with no public explanation. Board Chair Dave Thomas opened the meeting by acknowledging that the item had been pulled following a last minute request by the Dept. of Finance.  

Workers expressed their disappointment in testimony and called for the Board to reschedule the vote immediately – even shutting down the meeting temporarily. But then in front of a packed auditorium, the members of the Standards Board voted unanimously to pass the regulations noting that they were “doing the right thing” and if they needed to call an emergency meeting before the final deadline at the end of March they were willing. 

“We are pleased with the courage of the Standards Board today to do the right thing and vote to protect workers from rising temperatures,” said Sheheryar Kaoosji, executive director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. “The hottest years on record have occurred in the last ten years. That means the danger of working in high heat has become more acute in the time it has taken to finalize these standards. We hope that California can rise above corporate influence and protect the more than 15 million indoor workers in our state.” 

Prior to the passage of the new regulation, employers had a duty to address hazardous heat as part of an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. It is unclear at this time if the protections will be implemented by summer, a key point workers and advocates called for. 

“When it's hot, my days are filled with worry,” said Victor Ramirez, who has worked in warehouses for 20 years. “My body feels heavier, slower, and weaker. In the warehouses I have worked, I do not always feel safe. One time when I was sweating and sweating it felt like I was drowning. I left the container where I was working and instead of helping me, managers asked me why I was resting. This indoor heat standard is incredibly important, especially because it codifies that heat is a threat to workers, and employers need to prepare for it.”

In 2016 the Warehouse Worker Resource Center supported legislation introduced by Sen. Connie Leyva that created standards for indoor workers. The legislation came after Domingo Blancas, a warehouse worker in Chino, Calif., fell ill while working on a hot summer day. He was hospitalized for several days. Cal/OSHA cited the warehouse operator and the temp agency for failing to adequately identify, evaluate, correct, or train workers on the hazards of heat exposure and heat illness. 

The California Legislature passed SB1167 and it was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown that same year. The legislation called on the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to draft new standards by January 2019. Six years after the law was enacted,  the Cal/OSHA Standards Board held its first hearing on the proposal and on Thursday the Standards Board voted to pass the new standard into effect. 

Warehouse workers at Amazon’s West Coast Air Freight Fulfillment Center in partnership with the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, released a report in 2022 documenting extremely high temperatures at the warehouse and discrepancies between Amazon’s temperature monitors and their own thermometers that they brought to work.  At one point workers recorded a temperature of 121 degrees in an outdoor work area.

The Warehouse Worker Resource Center alongside warehouse workers has been fighting – and winning – for protections from these dangerous conditions. A full timeline of the WWRC’s efforts is here

MEDIA CONTACT: media@warehouseworkers.org

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About the WWRC

The Warehouse Worker Resource Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization founded in 2011 dedicated to improving working conditions in the warehouse industry in Southern California. The WWRC builds worker power through education, advocacy, and collective action to improve working conditions for the hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers in the Inland Region and Southern California.