How to Protect Workers Against Heat Illness

How to Protect Workers Against Heat Illness

As another scorching summer is upon us, Cal/OSHA is reminding employers with outdoor workers to take precautions to protect them against the heat. California employers need to be especially mindful as Cal/OSHA has workplace safety regulations governing the prevention of heat illness. The agency actively enforces its heat illness prevention standard. Employers should also comply for the safety and well-being of their workers, as heat illness can be deadly.

Cal/OSHA is urging employers to take the following steps to prevent heat-related illness among their employees who work outdoors:

Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan (HIPP) that is specific and customized to your operations. The plan must include the following heat illness prevention and response procedures:

  • Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention. Nobody should be working outside in heat if they have not been trained in heat illness prevention and emergency procedures.
  • Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool, and free of charge. Have enough that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so. Water should be located as close as practicable to where employees are working.
  • Access to shade – When temperatures reach 80 degrees and employees are present, you must have and maintain one or more areas of shade at all times. Locate the shade as close as practical to where employees are working. Enough shade should be available to accommodate the number of employees on meal, recovery or rest periods at any time. Even if temperatures are less than 80 degrees, you must permit access to shade for workers to rest.
  • The importance of rest – 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. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. If an employee starts feeling unwell, they must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness and emergency procedures should be initiated if they don’t improve.

High-heat procedures

When the temperature reaches 95 degrees, employers must institute high-heat procedures. This includes monitoring of employees, regular communication, more frequent reminders to drink water and rest, and additional cool-down rest periods. Emergency response procedures should be site-specific and include who/how to call emergency services and steps to respond to signs and symptoms of heat illness. Observe all employees and any newly assigned to a high-heat area. You should consider giving employees who have not been working in high temperatures time to adapt to the new conditions. You can do this by initially providing them with lighter work, frequent breaks, or shorter hours.

Get the plan right

Your heat illness prevention plan must be in writing and include all of the above. The HIPP must be written both in English and in the language understood by the majority of employees. It must also be available to employees at the work site. Additional information about heat illness prevention, including details on upcoming training sessions throughout the state, is posted on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page. The agency also has handy materials for your workers in English and Spanish on how to protect themselves against heat illness that you can print out and disseminate.

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