The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is proposing to adopt major revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard. In a recently released draft proposal, a number of significant changes are contemplated. While no timetable has been set for formal adoption of the proposal, we believe DOSH is aiming to have the new rules implemented by the summer of 2015.
Access to Shade
- The definition of “shade” is proposed to be revised to clarify that the conditions of the shade must not discourage workers from accessing it. This is intended to clarify that shade cannot be located in situations that discourage its use, such as adjacent to portable toilets, or across a public highway.
- The trigger temperature for the provision of shade would be lowered from 85° F to 80° F.
- Shade would have to be placed at a distance of no more than 700 feet (or approximately 1/8 of one mile) unless site conditions prohibit that location.
- The requirement for the amount of shade required would be increased from an amount sufficient to accommodate 25% of the employees to an amount sufficient to accommodate all employees who are on a meal period, rest period, or recovery period.
- The amendments clarify that the employee shall not be ordered back to work, regardless of the presence of signs or symptoms at the initiation of the rest period, before five minutes of rest have occurred, which does not include the time necessary to access the shade.
- A new requirement stating that if an employee exhibits signs or symptoms of heat illness, the employers must monitor the employee during the recovery period and that if the signs or symptoms do not resolve, appropriate emergency medical services must be provided.
Access to Water
- The amendments clarify that required drinking water shall be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided at no cost to the employee.
- The distance at which drinking water is located would be required to be within 400 feet from the workers, with limited exceptions.
- Trigger temperature for High-Heat Procedures would be lowered from 95° F to 85° F.
- A proposed new requirement limited to agricultural employers states that an employee who works at or above 95° F for two continuous hours, is required to ensure that the employee take a 10 minute recovery period.
- Effective employee monitoring would be clarified to include the following examples: ensuring the capability of a supervisor to effectively observe 20 or fewer employees; mandating a buddy system; maintaining regular communication with a sole employee by radio or cellular phone; or the use other effective means of observation.
- New requirement for pre-shift meetings to review high heat procedures, encourage employees to drink plenty of water, and to remind them of their right to take a cool-down rest.
- Enhanced requirements for written heat illness prevention procedures, which would now be called a “heat illness prevention plan.”
The proposed revisions are still in draft form and have been submitted by DOSH to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board. The action does not constitute formal rulemaking. However, if the rulemaking process is formally opened by the Standards Board, there will be a formal comment period. Farm organizations and the general employer community have already expressed concerns to the Division about aspects of the proposed rulemaking, and Western Growers will be submitting formal comments during the comment period. Please send any comments about the proposed rule to WG’s Vice President and General Counsel, Jason Resnick.
California has the nation’s toughest heat illness prevention regulation and California’s farmers have overwhelmingly embraced it to protect their employees. Western Growers and other farm organizations provided critical support for this regulation when it was drafted in 2005 and have worked with regulators to improve it ever since. Working with Cal/OSHA, our industry has trained thousands of farmers and labor contractors on preventing heat illness and the state is aggressively enforcing this law.
Outdoor employers are encouraged to always have shade up and available. Employers are encouraged to implement the “high heat” procedures throughout the summer and during heat waves. Employees should not be allowed to begin work in hot weather without first receiving heat illness prevention training. Employers should ensure that their written procedures are updated in English, Spanish and other languages spoken by your workforce, if applicable. Finally, make sure that your employees are able to answer basic questions about your heat illness prevention plan, such as identifying and responding to signs and symptoms of heat illness, who to report problems to, and the procedures for ensuring that clear and precise directions can be provided to the worksite. Prevention is the best policy when dealing with heat illness.
Western Growers Insurance Services has safety specialists that can provide required heat illness training and assist you in updating your heat illness plan. If interested in having a WGIS safety specialist assist you, please contact Greg Nelson, assistant vice president, director of commercial lines at (949) 885-2287.
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