According to scientists, the 2023 calendar year will likely go down in the record books as the
hottest year ever. (Guardian 11/8/2023) . Though extreme heat dramatically affects the planet in
many ways, it also affects workers who can die or be seriously injured and disabled by heat-
related injuries. In 2022, the California Legislature responded to concerns about heat injury to
workers by amending Labor Code 6721 to address these concerns (effective 1/1/2023). Still, the
new rules are not entirely in effect for all workers. This recent Heat Illness Standard law is
named after Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old pregnant farmworker who died in
2008 from an industry-caused heat stroke injury (KCRA Story 8/23/2022). The rules are named
after her in the hope that her death will not be in vain and workers will be protected from
California’s extreme heat.
Heat Protections for Workers.
Under the new regulations, the Department of Industrial Relations is creating new industry rules
and standards to protect workers from heat-related illnesses by December 1, 2025. The new
rules require employers to develop and distribute a Heat Illness Prevention Plan to new
employees and train existing employees on the plan at least once yearly.
Wildfire Smoke Air Quality Protections.
Because California summers have become synonymous with wildfires that can last for months,
Farmworker protections must also consider wildfire smoke standards and require protective
respiratory equipment when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is 2.5 PM (Particulate Micromatter) or
more. The new code mandates that when a maximum AQI of 301 occurs, employers must fit
farmworkers with protective equipment and provide medical evaluations. However, Labor Code
6721 also suggests that the new rules could lower the AQI number to less than 301.
New Rules & Standards.
These amendments to Labor Code 6721 resulted from AB 2243, which Governor Newsom
signed over a year ago (National Law Review 10/7/2022). Currently, Cal/OSHAs Heat Illness
Prevention regulations only apply to outdoor workers. However, heat illness prevention
regulations for indoor workers are currently being drafted and must be implemented by
December 1, 2025. More information is available from the California Department of Industrial
Relations at this informational web page. Workers should educate themselves about their rights
under these regulations, and employers must know the new rules. Though it may be hard to
remember unbearably hot days when we are approaching the winter holidays, the hot summer
days will return, and all California employees deserve protection from the hazards of heat illness.
Generally, employees must file a claim within one (1) year of the injury. If you have
suffered a heat-related illness or injury at work, please contact Mastagni Holstedt for a
free evaluation of your potential Workers’ Compensation claim.