Just in case you missed it, COVID-19 is not the only health issue facing contractors and their workers this summer—it’s also hot outside, which means the state’s Heat Illness Awareness regulations are in full force and effect.

After what had been a relatively temperate Spring, a big heatwave after Memorial Day triggered Cal/OSHA to remind all employers to protect outdoor workers from heat illness and to review high-temperature advisories and warnings in effect across California. 

California’s heat illness prevention standard: https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/3395.html applies to all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction and landscaping. Other workers protected by the rule include those that spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, such as security guards and groundskeepers, or in non-air conditioned vehicles such as transportation and delivery drivers.

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

  • Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures. 
  • Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • Water – 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.
  • Shade – Provide shade when workers request it or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. 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. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention program includes enforcement of heat regulations as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllne ssInfo.html and the 99calor.org informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/etools/08-006/

COVID-19 Complicates Heat Issues

Employers must assess each worksite and protect their workers from heat illness while also taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is currently widespread in the community and considered a workplace hazard. Employers should be attentive to allow enough space and time for employees to take breaks as needed in the shade while also maintaining a safe distance from one another. Extra infection prevention measures should be in place such as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, including the water and restroom facilities.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers should provide cloth face coverings or allow workers to use their own. Cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment but may help prevent the spread of the disease. Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating. Agricultural and other outdoor workers are not encouraged at this time to use surgical or respirator masks as face coverings.

Read more on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work on Cal/ OSHA’s webpage at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers and workers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.