As Californians across the state suffer from the current heat wave, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has notified employers in construction, agriculture, tree-trimming, landscaping, car wash and warehouse industries that it will be conducting inspections due to the high temperatures. Employers in these industries are responsible for protecting their workers from all known hazards, including this blistering, and potentially deadly, heat.
California’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor worksites, and certain industries — like agriculture, construction, landscaping, and oil and gas extraction — must implement high-heat procedures when the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit. High-heat procedures include ensuring employees are observed regularly for signs of heat illness and establishing effective communication methods so workers can contact a supervisor when needed.
“Employers have to take time to make sure their heat illness prevention procedures are effective to protect all outdoor workers from getting sick during this period of excessive heat,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip in a press release.
For example, for employees in the agriculture industry, when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above, the employer must ensure that the employee takes a minimum 10-minute preventative cool-down rest period every two hours.
In general, workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down, and workers experiencing possible overheating should take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Some workers with existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and those using anti-inflammatory medications, need to be extra vigilant as these conditions can increase their risk for heat illness.
Supervisors should be effectively trained on heat illness emergency procedures to help a sick employee receive treatment immediately. Otherwise, the symptoms may develop into a serious illness or even death.
Cal/OSHA offers details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials on its Heat Illness Prevention webpage and the 99calor.org informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available.
CalChamber also sells a Heat Illness Safety and Prevention Poster, which reflects current Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention regulations. It can be used to reinforce safe work habits in hot temperatures and help workers avoid heat illness.
Prevention is key!