Cal/OSHA Board Approves Emergency Heat Illness Rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board of California's state OSHA program (Cal/OSHA) has voted to adopt emergency regulations for heat illness prevention.

The new rules, approved Aug. 12, focus on actions that can be taken immediately by employers and employees to prevent further heat stress illnesses and are posted on the Cal/OSHA Web site.

The recent deaths of four California farm workers caused by intense summer heat spurred Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this month to instruct the state's workplace safety and health agency to create the emergency heat stress regulations.

The proposed regulations:

  • 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 that requires water to be available at all times and make sure 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.

"Among the provisions of the regulations, the real key is education for both workers and employers on how to avoid it in the first place," said Victoria Bradshaw, Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary, in a statement.

The regulations 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 standards board now gives the adopted emergency regulations to the Office of Administrative Law, which has until Aug. 22 to approve them. Once approved, the emergency heat stress regulations will be in effect for 120 days.

Bradshaw welcomed the move as a first step, but added, "We still have work to do to get a permanent standard in place."

In a statement, Cal/OSHA pledged to continue to work on the adoption of permanent regulations with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and worker and employer communities.

More information on the Cal/OSHA heat stress rules is available at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/HeatIllnessInfo.html.

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