As temperatures rise all across the state in both inland and coastal regions, Cal/OSHA reminds employers with outdoor workers that shade must be made available at all times, and must be in place when temperatures reach 80 degrees or above. Employers should also encourage workers to take cool-down rests in the shade to prevent overheating.
California’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction and landscaping. Other workers protected by the standard include security guards and groundskeepers, and transportation and delivery drivers who operate non-air conditioned vehicles.
It is important for employers to assess the risk of heat illness based on a worker’s duties and take appropriate steps to prevent them from getting sick. Regardless of the level of risk, all outdoor workers must be protected equally and employers with outdoor workers must maintain an effective heat illness prevention plan year-round.
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. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
Cal/OSHA urges workers experiencing possible overheating to take a preventative cooldown rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Workers who have existing health problems or medical conditions that reduce tolerance to heat, such as diabetes, need to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a worker’s risk for heat illness.
To prevent heat illness, it is crucial that supervisors are effectively trained on emergency procedures in case a worker gets sick. This helps ensure sick employees receive treatment immediately and that the symptoms do not develop into a serious illness or death.
Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention special emphasis program, the first of its kind in the nation, includes enforcement of heat regulations as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Detail on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.