California created the first regulations for heat illness prevention more than 10 years ago. There is no question that those standards have helped reduce the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths associated with exposure. Initially, it took a few years for high heat industries to adopt the standards, but they have now become a normal part of everyday work life for most operations in California.
Over time, Cal/OSHA increased and refined the regulations to more adequately address the elements of heat illness. Originally, there were several basic rules requiring business operations to address heat illness. Those rules required employer/employee training, providing water and shade for employees, and the creation of a written heat illness program. A couple of years ago, a set of procedures for “high heat” events were added to the requirements. Now the agency is suggesting a number of additional changes to the requirements that:
- specify that fresh, pure, and cool water be free to workers and within 400 feet
- lower the “shade-up” trigger to 80 degrees and be no more than 700 feet from workers
- require workers taking a cool-down break be encouraged to remain in the shade until symptoms abate
- lower the threshold for “high heat” procedures from 95 to 85 degrees
- require a 10 minute recovery period every 2 hours for ag employees in heat in excess of 95 degrees
- create additional requirements for supervisors to take immediate action if they observe any heat illness
- provide additional training to workers regarding their rights under heat illness regulations.
Although these changes are not being implemented as yet, Cal/OSHA will have hearings on the subject in San Diego on September 25, 2014, to review the regulations and hear public comment.
Loss control representatives from Western Growers Insurance Services can assist members with building a heat illness prevention plan and conducting the required training for heat illness. If you would like to discuss this with a safety specialist, contact Greg Nelson, assistant vice president of commercial lines for more information.
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