According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States had its hottest summer on record in 2021, narrowly beating records set during the Dust Bowl era 85 years ago. California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah experienced record-high temperatures during the months of June, July, and August.
With the inevitably of another hot dry summer occurring in 2022, it is imperative to keep outdoor workers safe from heat illness. Unfortunately, each year there are reports of workers being hospitalized, with some becoming fatalities, as a result of heat illness-related incidents.
In 2005, under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California passed the nation’s first workplace heat illness regulation for outdoor workers, CCR Title 8 Section 3395. This Cal/OSHA regulation applies to all outdoor places of employment to include agriculture, landscaping, construction, and oil/gas extraction industries.
The steps required to prevent heat illness at the work site include:
Water. Access to fresh water in the amount of at least one quart (32 ounces) per hour of work for each employee must be available.
Rest. Whenever workers feel the need to prevent themselves from overheating, a preventive cool-down break period under shade cover is allowed.
Shade. Employers must provide shade coverings when temperature are 80 degrees F and above. Shade coverings and water must be placed as close to the work site as possible.
Plan. A written Heat Illness Prevention Program must be developed and implemented in order to protect outdoor workers during hot periods. This program will need to include high-heat procedures when temperatures are considered critical at 95 F and above.
Training. Supervisors and their employees need to be trained on heat illness prevention. Training should include recognizing signs and symptoms of heat illness, knowing the water and shade requirements, acclimating to high-heat temperatures, and having personnel trained in first aid/CPR for responding to workplace emergencies.
Best practices for heat illness prevention are to check your local news or reputable internet apps for extreme heat alerts and weather forecasts prior start of shifts to better prepare for exposure to high temperatures. Additionally, advancements in wearable and mobile technologies have made it easier to keep workers connected and aware of high heat alerts and prevention protocols.
Western Growers Insurance Services is a full-service insurance brokerage offering a suite of insurance and tailored risk management solutions to agribusiness and related industry members. For more information or assistance, please contact Ken Cooper, Director Risk Strategy for Western Growers Insurance Services, at KCooper@wgis.com.
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