Remember to Protect Outdoor Workers From Heat Illness

Remember to Protect Outdoor Workers From Heat Illness

As June approaches and temperatures in some areas of California creep into the 90s and even surpass 100 degrees, employers must take appropriate steps to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness — by adhering to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA’s) heat illness prevention standard.

As Cal/OSHA reminds employers, employers with outdoor workers are required to:

  • Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  • Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • 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.
  • Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time. 
  • Encourage workers who feel the need to take a cool-down rest to do so in the shade for at least 5 minutes so as to protect themselves from overheating. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
  • 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 unaccustomed to working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.

Adhering to these standards can protect workers from not only heat exhaustion and issues like dizziness, weakness and nausea, but also heat stroke, convulsions, fainting or, potentially, from death.

And two new tools from the federal government’s new Heat and Health Initiative may help California employers plan for high heat days:

  • The new HeatRisk Forecast Tool, developed by the CDC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, gives a seven-day heat forecast at the county level that indicates when temperatures may reach levels that could harm one’s health; and
  • The CDC’s HeatRisk Dashboard integrates data from the HeatRisk Forecast Tool with other information, including details on local air quality, to inform the public on how best to protect themselves when outdoor temperatures are high and could impact their health. 

Cal/OSHA offers details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials on its Heat Illness Prevention webpage and the informational website.

Jessica Mulholland, Managing Editor, CalChamber

CalChamber members can read more about Implementing High-Heat Procedures and Outdoor Workplaces v. Indoor Workplaces in the HR Library. Not a member? Learn how to power your business with a CalChamber membership.

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