California's state-run occupational safety and health agency is warning employers to take precautions as a heat wave hits Southern California through Thursday, May 10.
San Bernardino, Palm Springs, Indio and El Centro began experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit earlier this week.
“It is important for employers to check forecasts and monitor the temperatures to prepare for periods of high heat,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a statement. “That information should be used to closely observe workers for possible heat stress and modify their work schedules as needed.”
California’s heat illness prevention regulation requires employers with outdoor workers to take the following four steps to prevent heat illness:
- Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
- Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
- Shade – Provide shade when workers request it or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
The agency cautions workers experiencing possible overheating to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Workers who have existing health problems or medical conditions that reduce tolerance to heat, such as diabetes, need to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a worker’s risk for heat illness.
In addition to the basic steps outlined by California’s heat illness prevention regulation for employers with outdoor workers, heat at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit requires employers to take additional precautions. Among other measures, it is crucial that workers are actively monitored for early signs of heat illness and supervisors are effectively trained on the emergency procedures in case a worker does get sick. This helps ensure sick employees receive treatment immediately and that the symptoms do not develop into a serious illness or death.
Information about protecting outdoor workers from heat illness can be found at Cal/OSHA's website.