With record hot temperatures throughout California, employers must protect employees who work outdoors from heat illness.  Cal/OSHA issued a reminder last week about its heat illness prevention standard, which applies to all outdoor worksites. To prevent heat illness, the law requires employers to provide outdoor workers fresh water, access to shade at 80 degrees and whenever requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks (in addition to regular breaks), and maintain a written prevention plan that includes training on the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an emergency.

Employees who work in certain industries are entitled to addition protections when the temperature reaches 95 degrees.  These industries include agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation of agricultural products, construction materials or other heavy indusial and commercial products.

Employers with outdoor workers in all industries must take the following steps to prevent heat illness:

  • 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 that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
  • 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.)
  • Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time.

Details regarding the heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the 99calor.org informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool also is available on Cal/OSHA’s website.

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