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Although Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention standard (Title 8, Section 3395) requirements apply only to outdoor environments, employers are still required to prevent hazardous exposure to high in- door temperatures under the California Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard (Title 8, Section 3203).
Additional requirements apply to workplaces regarding mechanical ven- tilation (Title 8, Sections 5142-3), provision of drinking water (Title 8 CCR Section 3363), sanitary facilities (Title 8, Sections 3364-5), washing facilities (Title 8, Section 3366), and medical services and first aid (Title 8, Section 3400).
The Cal/OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) standard applies to heat illness prevention through its requirements for timely and ongoing hazard identification and control, safety policies and procedures, worker and supervisor training, and management leadership and commitment in the development and implementation of the IIPP.
Regular inspections with checklists and hazard mapping are good ways to identify hazards. Once heat hazards are identified, all sources of heat should be addressed. There are various methods or controls that can be used to provide effective protection.
Indoor Heat Illness Checklist
An indoor heat illness checklist can be used in a workplace inspection to look for anything that may cause heat illnesses in indoor work environments. This includes problems with the facility, equipment and processes; jobs that require significant exertion or use of personal protective equipment; and how effective the employer’s heat illness prevention policies and procedures are.
Some of the items require only direct observation; others will be best captured by also having a conversation with workers and supervisors. Workplace safety committee members, worker leaders and supervisors can use a checklist as a tool to evaluate heat hazards in their workplace as part of preventive efforts.
Mapping out heat in the workplace
As a way to help prevent indoor heat illness, workers and employers can draw a floor plan of the workplace or of specific work areas. On the map, they can mark all sources of heat. For example, if there is good ventilation; if there is heat-generating machinery and equipment, such as dryers, steamers and ovens; and tasks in the work process, such as physically demanding tasks, which can contribute to the body heat load. Then they can evaluate which of these conditions contribute to heat illness by using different colors. Once the map is finished, it can be used as a tool to determine priority hazards to control. This method can be used to evaluate previous heat illness incidents.
If there is a health and safety committee in the workplace, hazard map- ping can be a tool to reenergize the com- mittee and work with management to control heat. This is a dynamic activity that can be used to get everyone inness prevention plan.
Heat Illness in the Workplace
Many people think that excessive heat only causes discomfort. However, heat illnesses are a serious health problem. If precautions are not taken in time, heat illnesses can greatly affect one’s health and even cause death. Workers and employers should know the symptoms of heat illnesses to take action right away and prevent death or adverse health effects.
Under California law, the workplace should NOT be a source of injury or illness or threaten the lives of those who work there. In California, employers are required to establish, implement and maintain effective programs to prevent injury and illness as mandated by the Cal/OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Standard (Title 8 CCR Section 3203).
Employers must provide a hazard- free workplace, not only because it is their legal responsibility, but also be- cause a safe and healthy workplace is a more productive workplace. A workplace with an effective safety plan conveys to workers that they are valued and promotes a positive attitude. The safety plan ensures that all workers can go home safe and sound at the end of the day. Safe and healthy workplaces mean that businesses grow in a responsible manner and that workers and employers benefit from such growth.
In summary, both workers and supervisors have good reasons to be invested in keeping safe and healthy working conditions. Therefore, they should be well informed about job hazards, develop the necessary skills to control them, and take measures to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all. When it comes to heat hazards, workers should know: What conditions contribute to the risk of a heat illness; what are the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses: what steps can be taken to avoid heat illnesses, and what to do in case of an emergency.
Information provided by the California Worker Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program (WOSHTEP).