Plan Ahead to Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Illness

It’s never too early for heat illness prevention planning.
It’s never too early for heat illness prevention planning.

Even though a glance out the window may show stormy skies, next week the weather may be sunny and beautiful with increasing temperatures. Cal/OSHA reminds employers to take time now and plan ahead for warmer weather to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illness and death.

“It is never too early for employers with outdoor workers to review their heat illness prevention procedures and ensure their training is effective,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, in a statement. “Cal/OSHA continues its outreach and training efforts, as well as enforcement at outdoor worksites, to ensure compliance with the standard.”

Outdoor workplaces include agriculture, construction, road work, landscaping, storage yards and other operations. Cal/OSHA will have targeted enforcement inspections at outdoor workplaces to ensure compliance with the heat illness prevention standard and injury and illness prevention standard.

Employers should:

  • Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • Provide enough fresh, pure, cool water so each employee can drink at least one quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage employees to do so.
  • Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. (Shade structures must be in place when temperatures are higher than 80 degrees.)
  • Closely observe employees during a heat wave and also any employee newly assigned to a high heat area. Allow new employees to acclimate to hot conditions with lighter work, frequent breaks or shorter hours.
  • 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.

During enforcement inspections, Cal/OSHA most frequently cites employers for failing to have a written heat illness prevention plan specific to the worksite. Other heat-related violations include inadequate access to water and shade and a lack of supervisor and employee training.

Employers can learn more about the heat illness standard using the Cal/OSHA guidance on the requirements and Heat Illness Prevention Enforcement Q&A. Additional information, including details on upcoming trainings throughout the state, can also be found on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention webpage and Water, Rest, Shade, Cal/OSHA’s public awareness campaign website.

Questions on heat illness prevention should be directed to Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch or call (800) 963-9424. Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734).

CalChamber members can use the Heat Illness Prevention Plan – Outdoor Employees to develop your company’s plan and procedures for complying with Cal/OSHA regulations on heat illness for outdoor workers. The form is also available in Spanish.

Katie Culliton, Editor

CalChamber members can read more about Heat Illness, including emergency response procedures and acclimatization, in the HR Library. Not a member? Learn about the benefits of membership.

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