Cal/OSHA is advising all employers to protect their outdoor workers from the risks associated with heat illness. Through next Monday June 22, temperatures are expected to be 15 to 25 degrees above normal in Southern California. The National Weather Service forecasts excessive hot and dry weather patterns in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties in particular. Northern California should be prepared for high heat as well.
“During times of sustained high heat, it is especially important that employers take the necessary steps to prevent heat illness for their outdoor workers,” said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). Cal/OSHA is a division within DIR.
California’s heat illness prevention regulation, originally established in 2005, was amended effective May 1, 2015. The amendments clarify requirements related to the provision of water rest and shade protections for all outdoor workers, which are detailed in Cal/OSHA’s guidance on the new requirements. Employer requirements under the heat regulation include:
- Training for all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.
- Provision of cool, fresh water as close as practicable to the work area at no cost to workers.
- Shade provided whenever the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and enough shade to accommodate the number of workers taking a break.
- Encouragement of employees on cool down rests and monitoring for symptoms of heat illness.
- Acclimatization to ensure that workers, especially new employees, safely adapt to increased temperatures during a heat wave.
“Acclimatization is critical to the health of all employees during a heat wave and employees who are newly assigned to high heat areas,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The workers must be closely observed to ensure that their bodies adjust properly to the heat.”
Special high heat procedures are also required when temperatures reach 95 degrees and workers are at greater risk. At these times, supervisors must take extra precautions:
- Observe workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Hold pre-shift meetings on safety and remind workers to drink water frequently.
- Require that workers take a cool-down rest every two hours
- Ensure effective communication systems are in place so that emergency assistance can be summoned immediately if necessary.
Cal/OSHA inspects worksites in outdoor industries such as agriculture, construction, landscaping, and others throughout the heat season. Through partnerships with various employer and worker organizations in different industries, Cal/OSHA also provides consultation, outreach and training on heat illness prevention.
A variety of Heat Illness Prevention resources are available on the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention page, such as a webinar on requirements, a video tour of Cal/OSHA’s HIP materials and an updated Heat Illness Prevention e-tool. The Water. Rest. Shade. campaign website also features a variety of educational resources and fact sheets in multiple languages.
Cal/OSHA has a toll-free heat helpline in English and Spanish at 1-877-99-CALOR (1-877-992-2567), so that workers and the public can report workplace hazards at Cal/OSHA’s district offices, and employers can receive consultation assistance for their worksites.
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