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April 12, 2016

Employers Urged to Protect Outdoor Workers from Record-Breaking Heat Wave

California heat of the past several years has shattered temperature records going back more than 100 years. With this year’s heat season approaching, please remember that prevention is the best defense for outdoor workers against heat-related illness and death.

Cal/OSHA will be targeting industries—such as agriculture, landscaping and construction—during inspections to check for compliance with the heat illness prevention standard and the injury and illness prevention standard. To remain in compliance, Cal/OSHA encourages employers and worker supervisors to learn more about the standard, which was updated in 2015. Please refer to the Cal/OSHA guidance on the new requirements and the Heat Illness Prevention Enforcement Q&A for more information on the updates.  

As a reminder, Cal/OSHA requires California employers to take the following steps to prevent heat illness:

1. Training

Train all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.

2. Water

Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8 ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.

3. Shade

Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Shade structures must be in place when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or upon request.

4. Observe

Closely observe all employees during a heat wave and any employee newly assigned to a high heat area. Lighter work, frequent breaks or shorter hours will help employees who have not been working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.

5. Planning

Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard, including plans on how to handle medical emergencies and steps to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of heat illness.

The most frequent violation that Cal/OSHA cites during targeted heat inspections is for failure to have a proper written heat illness prevention plan specific to the worksite. Serious violations are often related to inadequate access to water and shade, and a lack of supervisor and employee training.

Additional information about heat illness prevention, including details on upcoming training sessions throughout the state can be found on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services provides free assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs, and can be reached at (800) 963-9424.

Western Growers has trained safety specialists who can also assist members with heat illness training and preparation. For information, please contact Greg Nelson, Vice President of Western Growers Insurance Services, at (949) 885-2287.