Employers are advised to prepare for HOT summer temperatures.
With the hot summer months ahead, employers with an outdoor workforce will want to have a clear plan to prevent heat illness. Safety in the workplace is a huge priority all year but especially in the summer months. California’s strict heat illness standards require employers to take precise steps to protect outdoor workers from heat illness.
What Employers Should Do
Cal/OSHA urges employers to prepare in advance for heat waves. In addition, whether you have an indoor or outdoor workforce, employers should always consider the overall duty to ensure a safe workplace.
The California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 8, section 3395 (Heat Illness Prevention) contains the heat illness standard. In general, California’s heat illness prevention standards require employers with “outdoor places of employment” to:
- Provide ready access to plenty of free, cool, fresh and pure water. Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least one quart per hour, or four eight-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.
- Provide a shaded area for workers to cool down when temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
- Follow high-heat procedures when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher (http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/etools/08-006/EWP_highHeat.htm).
- Institute and follow acclimatization procedures (where the body adjusts to increased exposure to heat).
- Monitor weather.
- Train workers and supervisors about heat illness and how to prevent it.
- Prepare a Heat Illness Prevention Plan, including implementing emergency-response procedures, and train workers on steps to take if someone gets sick.
This is just a general overview of the very specific heat illness requirements. Cal/OSHA also provides educational tools for employers (http://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllnessInfo.html). Failure to comply with California’s heat illness standards can result in Cal/OSHA citations, fines and even stop-work orders that shut down your operations.
Best Practices For Worker Safety
With rising temperatures on the way, all employers will want to consider the affects that heat may have on worker safety. Employers with outdoor places of employment and subject to the heat illness standard will want to take additional steps:
- Familiarize themselves with the heat illness standard.
- Train and educate employees and supervisors on how to recognize, respond to and prevent heat illness and on Cal/OSHA requirements relating to water, shade, cool-down rest periods and acclimatization.
- Prepare a written heat illness plan tailored to the individual conditions present at their worksite and be ready to produce it to Cal/OSHA upon request.
- Keep records of their training and other compliance efforts.