Cal/OSHA Urges Employers to Protect Workers from Heat Illness

May 14, 2014
With temperatures surging, Cal/OSHA is advising all employers in California to take precautionary measures to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness.

With temperatures surging, Cal/OSHA is advising all employers in California to take precautionary measures to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness.

Temperatures were expected to be 15 to 25 degree above normal in northern and southern California this week. San Francisco and San Diego were among the areas under heat advisories for much of the week.

“Cal/OSHA continues to enforce the nation’s most comprehensive heat-illness prevention regulations, and we will continue to work with both labor and management to ensure that workers stay well on the job,” said Christine Baker, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees Cal/OSHA.

California’s heat regulation requires all employers to protect their outdoor workers by taking these basic steps:

  • Train all employees and supervisors about heat-illness prevention.
  • Provide plenty of cool, fresh water and encourage employees to drink water frequently.
  • Provide a shaded area for workers to take a cool-down recovery break.
  • Prepare an emergency heat-illness prevention plan for the worksite, with training for supervisors and workers on what to do if a worker shows signs or symptoms of heat illness.

Cal/OSHA recommends that employers take measures to help their workers get acclimatized to working outdoors in the heat.

The state requires special high-heat procedures when temperatures reach 95 degrees. In these conditions, supervisors must take extra precautions:

  • Observe workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Remind workers to drink water frequently.
  • Provide close supervision of workers in their first 14 days of employment (to ensure acclimatization).
  • Have effective communication systems in place to be able to call for emergency assistance if necessary.

"When temperatures spike, employers are required to make sure that workers have enough water, shade and rest even if they don’t report any symptoms associated with heat illness,” said acting Cal/OSHA chief Juliann Sum. “Preparation and easy access to water, rest and shade are the most effective ways to ensure that outdoor workers stay healthy.”

Cal/OSHA said it will inspect outdoor worksites in 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 will provide consultation, outreach and training on heat-illness prevention.

The agency noted that its campaign to prevent heat illness is the first of its kind the nation.

Training materials and employer requirements for preventing heat illness are available on the agency’s heat-illness Web page, and a number of heat-safety resources are available on the “Water. Rest. Shade.” campaign Web page.

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