Cal/OSHA: Workers Need Access to Fresh Water to Prevent Heat Illness

June 27, 2017
Companies need to monitor employees and implement high heat procedures as temperatures rise, Cal/OSHA says.

Triple-digit temperatures in the Southwest and West United States in the past week already have played a factor in at least two deaths, according to news reports.

Because of this, Cal/OSHA is reminding employers with outdoor workers they must provide fresh water and encourage workers to stay hydrated in order to prevent heat illness.

"It is tragic when someone dies of hyperthermia since in most every case it could have been prevented," Dr. Michelle Jorden, Medical Examiner, Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office in a statement to the press.

California's Heat Illness Prevention Standard requires employers to train workers on the signs and symptoms of heat illness, provide shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. When temperatures reach 95 degrees or above, employers are required to implement high heat procedures to ensure outdoor workers are protected. Some of these measures include effective monitoring with a mandatory buddy system for workers or regular communication with workers who work alone.

"Outdoor workers should have enough fresh, pure and suitably cool water so that they can drink at least one quart per hour during the workday, and should not wait until they are thirsty to hydrate," said Juliann Sum, Cal/OSHA chief, in a statement. "This is particularly important during extended periods of triple-digit heat. Employers should remind workers of the importance of staying hydrated and ensure they have easy access to drinking water at the worksite."

Workers most affected by high temperatures include those in the following industries: agriculture, construction, landscaping and oil and gas extraction. The agency regularly inspects outdoor worksites these industries throughout the heat season.  

Online information on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available on Cal/OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention web page.

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