Cal/OSHA Submits Heat Stress Regulations to State

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has submitted proposed emergency regulations for heat stress management to the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and has asked the board to adopt them immediately.

"When temperatures rise, the hundreds of thousands of Californians who work in the fields, on construction sites and outdoors under the sun face the risk of heat-related illnesses," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "The regulations released [July 29] will make an immediate difference by providing training and other steps that both employers and employees can take to prevent these injuries."

The proposed emergency regulations would:

  • Require education of employees and supervisors likely to be exposed to heat stress on how to prevent heat illness and what to do should it occur.
  • Re-state existing law requiring water to be available at all times and ensure workers understand the importance of frequent consumption of water.
  • Require that access to a shaded area is available to any worker suffering from heat illness or needing shade to prevent the onset of illness.
  • Require the board to review, by no later than Jan. 1, 2006, the feasibility of providing shade for rest periods for outdoor employment.

"With 2 months left in the heat season, it is imperative that action be taken immediately to protect those who work outside," California Department of Industrial Relations Director John Rea said. "Among the provisions of the regulations the real key is education for both employees and supervisors. The best way to battle heat illness is to avoid it in the first place, and proper education helps achieve that goal."

The regulations will apply equally to all who work outdoors in conditions that induce heat stress from the farm worker to the roofer to the laborer paving the highway.

"The recent deaths of both a farm worker and a construction worker in the Central Valley serve to highlight the need for a regulation that protects all those who work outside," Rea said.

The board is expected to meet in early August to vote on the emergency regulations. Once approved, they will be in effect for 120 days, at which time they will lapse if the board does not adopt them as permanent regulations. The California Department of Industrial Relations says it will work with the board toward the adoption of permanent regulations.

In the meantime, Cal/OSHA is educating employers and workers on methods of heat stress avoidance. It has launched a campaign that includes an advisory bulletin, a Spanish language radio blitz and a Web page outlining preventative measures.

To find out more about protecting workers from heat stress, visit http://www.dir.ca.gov.

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