Excessive heat warnings in parts of California have prompted the state's OSHA agency to disseminate an advisory.
California's heat illness prevention standard encompasses all workers in outdoor environments such as agriculture, construction and landscaping. Employees in industries that "spend a significant amount of time" outside and in non-air conditioned vehicles also are covered. Employers must comply with the rule as well as any mandates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Employers must assess each worksite and protect their workers from heat illness while also taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is currently widespread in the community and considered a workplace hazard," Cal/OSHA states. "Employers should be attentive to allow enough space and time for employees to take breaks as needed in adequate shade while also maintaining a safe distance from one another. Extra infection prevention measures should be in place such as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, including the water and restroom facilities."
While employers should provide cloth face covers or allow workers to use their own, the agency advises that face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and cool down in high temperatures. In addition, cloth face masks are not considered personal protective equipment, but they may help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cal/OSHA states that agriculture and other outdoor employees should not utilize surgical or respirator masks as face coverings.
Details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the 99calor.org informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on the agency's website.
Companies that employ outdoor workers must take the following four steps located in the slideshow to protect workers from heat-related illness.