As Heat Creeps Up, Remember to Protect Outdoor Workers

As some parts of California start getting hotter, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is reminding employers who have outdoor workers that they must take measures to reduce risks associated with working in high-heat conditions and wildfire smoke. Here’s the steps that employers can take to prepare for the summer heat and its likely accompanying fire season.     

“When it comes to preventing heat illness and exposure to harmful wildfire smoke, employers with outdoor workers should not wait to review their procedures and they should ensure their training is effective as soon as possible,” Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip said in a recent press release.

Cal/OSHA oversees heat illness regulations that apply to all California outdoor workplaces. Currently, no regulations cover indoor workplaces. Heat illness often occurs when workers are exposed to extreme heat and/or humidity and can cause symptoms that range from minor to life-threatening.

Here are six steps employers can take to comply with the regulations and prevent heat illness from occurring, including:

  • Plan — Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  • Training — Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • Water — Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so each worker can drink at least one quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
  • Rest — Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
  • Shade — Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time.
  • 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.

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.

Mike McCluskey, Senior Technical Editor, CalChamber

CalChamber members can also read more about Avoiding Heat Illness in the HR Library. Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.

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