Written by The Business Journal Staff
With much of the Central Valley preparing for its first weekend of triple digit temperatures, residents are buckling up for another hot summer, and Cal/OSHA reminds employers that protecting outdoor workers from heat illness is not only a safe practice, but is required by law.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Cal/OSHA reminds employers and workers that heat illness prevention standard is in effect in all outdoor workplaces.
Standards require employers to provide fresh water to outdoor workers, access to shade when temperatures rise above 80 degrees as well as when requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks in addition to regularly scheduled breaks, and require site managers to maintain a written prevention plan outlining the signs of heat illness and emergency procedures.
“In certain industries, when the temperature at outdoor worksites reaches or exceeds 95 degrees, Cal/OSHA’s standard requires additional protections,” the press release reads. “The industries with high-heat requirements are agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation of agricultural products, construction materials or other heavy materials.”
It goes on to outline that high-heat procedures also include observation of employees for signs of heat illness, as well as maintaining communication between supervisors and employees in case of a heat-related emergency.
“In California, since the early 90s, all employers are expected to have what’s called an ‘injury and illness prevention program,’” said Erika Monterroza, a spokesperson for Cal/OSHA. The programs commonly include outlining emergency procedures addressing heat-related illness.
The department requires outdoor workers in all industries to develop and implement a written heat illness prevention plan, train employees on heat illness prevention and provide drinking water for employees – enough for each worker to consume at least one quart per hour.
“If the employer’s not thinking about this and putting it in writing ahead of time, then chances are some of these steps are not being taken,” she said.
Employers are also required to provide cool-down rest for at least five minutes to prevent workers from overheating, and provide proper shade for employees.
The department urges employees not to wait until they feel sick to cool down.
“They should actually seek cool-down rest breaks in order not to come down with symptoms,” Monterroza said.
Employers in need of assistance with health and safety programs can reach Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at (800) 963-9424.
Workers with questions regarding heat illness prevention can speak with Cal/OSHA representatives during normal business hours at (833) 579-0927.
Complaints regarding workplace safety and health hazards can be filed with the Cal/OSHA district office. All complaints filed are confidential.