California’s Heat Advisory Reminder
June has arrived, summer is around the corner, and many western states will be facing hot weather for weeks and months to come. With this in mind, Cal/OSHA recently reminded all employers about the need to protect their outdoor employees from heat risk and illness.
According to California’s standard for Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor Places of Employment, employers must closely watch their outdoor workers performing in high heat conditions for the first time. They must also provide shade, water, and rest to all workers and ensure that everyone is trained in recognizing the symptoms of heat illness and knowing the procedures for handling emergencies. This standard applies to all outdoor workers in the state, including those in construction, transportation, agriculture, maintenance, and delivery services.
Supervisors or other designees must observe all outdoor workers during a heatwave. A heatwave indicates that the outdoor temperature is forecast to be at least 80 degrees F and 10 degrees hotter than the previous five-days average. In addition, supervisors or other designees must observe for at least 14 days any employee who is newly assigned to work in a high heat area. It is a good idea to allow new workers to slowly acclimate to hotter weather by working shorter hours at first and gradually increasing.
Water, Shade, and Rest
Employers should provide plentiful, free drinking water to their workers and ensure it is fresh and cool. They should encourage their workers to drink at least one quart per hour. Also, employers must provide outdoor workers with shady areas when the temperature is higher than 80 degrees F. Throughout the workday, employers should allow and encourage workers to rest as needed. Workers can request shade and time to cool off as they feel it necessary. They should not wait to feel ill before taking a break.
Planning and Training
If employers have not already done so, the standard mandates that they create a plan for managing high heat and preventing heat illness for their workers. This plan must include training for supervisors and all workers to understand the risks of heat illness and recognize the signs. It must also include procedures for handling heat emergencies, including cooling down workers, contacting medical services, and transporting workers to medical facilities.
In addition, employers are encouraged to monitor the weather forecast so they can be prepared for heat advisories.
Employers can find more information and conditional scenarios by using the Heat Illness Prevention online tool available on Cal/OSHA’s website.
Though not outlined in the Cal/OSHA standard, other high heat tips are provided below.
- Workers should be encouraged to wear light-colored loose clothing, as well as a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face and neck.
- They should also wear UV-protective eyewear and sunscreen.
- Workers should eat smaller meals throughout the day and avoid alcohol and caffeine since those can be dehydrating.
Everyone should know the signs of the following conditions:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Clammy skin
- Fast (but weak) pulse
A person experiencing these symptoms must cool down immediately.
- Hot skin (possibly red, dry, or moist)
- Body temperature above 103 degrees F
- Rapid (strong) pulse
- Possible unconsciousness
A person with these symptoms is experiencing an emergency. It is critical to call 9-1-1 or transport to a medical facility right away.
Especially during hot weather, make sure all your workers are trained in weather risks and emergency procedures, and encourage them to look out for one another. The health of your crew is critical to the success of any project, as well as your company’s overall viability.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.