An incident at a Rite Aid distribution center in Lancaster, Calif. is partly behind a bill before the California legislature that would amend Section 142.8 of the Labor Code and require the Occupational Safety and Health Board to develop a standard to protect workers from being exposed to excessive heat indoors. California Assembly Bill 1045 calls for language to be added to the labor code on or before July 1, 2008 that would call for hazard identification, workplace monitoring, hazard prevention, require preventive rest and relief periods, access to drinking water, communication and notification and acclimatization as well as emergency medical response, medical services and first aid and training in heat illness detection and prevention for supervisors and employees.
According to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, an worker death at its Lancaster distribution center made Rite Aid part of the discussion of the California bill. The union noted the facility lacks air conditioning in areas where up to 600 workers pick and pack products every day and where temperatures can top 100 degrees F. In June 2006, a worker collapsed and was pronounced dead an hour later at the Antelope Valley Hospital. The coroner’s office determined the death was not heat related.
The background statement attached to the bill notes that from January 1, 2006 to November 28, 2006, 37 heat-related serious accident reports were filed with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Of those, 14 were fatalities. The statement acknowledges that many of those cases are still under investigation and it is not clear whether they were related to indoor working conditions.