Cal/OSHA Urges Employers to Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Illness

With California’s heat season quickly approaching, Cal/OSHA today hosted a news conference to remind employers that prevention is the best defense for outdoor workers against heat-related illness and death.

A key component of Cal/OSHA’s prevention model includes annual trainings statewide in both English and Spanish.  Nisei Farmers League and 11 other agricultural employers co-sponsored training sessions in each language today in Easton. The training highlights the need to protect outdoor workers from heat illness and the requirements under California’s heat illness standard.

“Cal/OSHA continues to enforce the nation’s most comprehensive heat illness prevention regulation, and we will continue our outreach, consultation and training for workers and employers to ensure that workers are protected from the heat,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

The risk of heat illness is generally highest for people who work outdoors. Therefore, Cal/OSHA’s prevention approach includes targeted enforcement inspections at outdoor worksites in industries such as agriculture, landscaping and construction during heat season. These inspections ensure compliance with the heat illness prevention standard and the injury and illness prevention standard, which require employers to take the following basic precautions:

  1. Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  2. Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so. 
  3. Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool‐down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.Shade structures must be in place when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or upon request.
  4. 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 who have not been working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.
  5. Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention standard, including plans on how to handle medical emergencies and steps to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of heat illness.

The most frequent violation that Cal/OSHA cites during targeted heat inspections is for failure to have a proper written heat illness prevention plan specific to the worksite.  Serious violations are often related to inadequate access to water and shade, and to a lack of supervisor and employee training.

 

Additional information about heat illness prevention, including details on upcoming training sessions throughout the state are posted on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. Cal/OSHA also has extensive multilingual materials for employers, workers and trainers on its Water. Rest. Shade. public awareness campaign website.

Questions related to heat illness prevention should be directed to Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch, which provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs. Employers should call (800) 963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR’s Call Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734). The California Workers’ Information line at 866-924-9757 provides recorded information in English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

 

Bryan May

Bryan May is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Prior to joining Cal OES in 2017, Bryan spent 30 years as an Emmy award winning television anchor and reporter.

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