On Monday July 8, 2013, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) convened a “stakeholders’ discussion” in Oakland to discuss recommendations for possible changes to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
Western Growers staff, along with other representatives of the agricultural and general business community, were present to explain that the current standard is working and that employers have spent tremendous resources to reduce heat illness and increase compliance. However, agricultural labor advocates offered proposals to further toughen the nation’s first and toughest standard for prevention of heat illness.
First enacted in 2006 and strengthened in 2010, the current standard requires employers with outdoor workers to establish and implement emergency procedures, provide training on heat illness prevention, drinking water – at least one quart per hour per employee – and shade when temperatures are above 85 degrees, among other requirements. High heat procedures kick in for agriculture (and a few select industries) when the outdoor temperature hits 95 degrees.
Labor advocates’ proposals include:
- making “fresh, pure and suitably cool water” available within 10 feet of all employees unless impossible to do so;
- access to shade for 100% of employees when the temperature reaches 80 degrees (or within five minutes of an employee’s request when temperatures are below 80 degrees) and no farther than 200 feet from any employee;
- making current high heat procedures applicable at all times, but at least when the temperature reaches 80 degrees;
- having additional compensated cool-down periods of 10-15 minutes per hour;
- applying joint employer liability standards against land owners who hire farm labor contractors that violate the HIP standard.
Industry implored the division to analyze the data with respect to heat related incidents since 2005 in order to determine whether those cases occurred in compliant workplaces or non-compliant workplaces. If the majority of the incidents occurred in non-compliant workplaces, that would suggest that the standard as written is effective but that additional resources should be marshaled to increase the rate of compliance, which has leveled off in recent years.
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