As we enter June, it seems Summer days are arriving sooner and sooner each year. This year, we have already seen temperatures as high as 110F in the valley. It is with this in mind, we remind and implore our districts to make sure they are implementing an effective Heat Illness Prevention Program.
Sadly, outdoor workers die every summer due to being inadequately prepared for the high temperatures. Prolonged sun exposure and physical exertion put outdoor workers at a special risk, especially for those who are not yet acclimated to the heat or at risk due to personal reasons such as medications, diet, excess weight or alcohol or caffeine consumption.
If you are a supervisor or employer of outdoor workers in construction, landscaping or agricultural, you have a duty to take four prevention steps under Cal-OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention regulations: Training, Water, Shade and Planning. Seems simple, but is it? What amount of shade is considered adequate? How much water must be available to employees throughout the day? Is there a replenishment procedure? At what temperature are employers required to provide shade if there is none?
If your written Heat Illness Prevention Plan has been updated since the 2105 regulation changes and you just need a refresher, call a meeting and do your annual review of this risk with your staff (if you haven’t already). Revisit the signs and symptoms of heat illness, your plan for shade and cooling rest breaks, and make potable water accessible at all times. How you will monitor someone who exhibits symptoms? What is your procedure is for administering first aid and enacting emergency response? What extra measures will be taken to protect new employees? Young and new employees are at an increased risk for heat illness as they navigate new tasks and job responsibilities.
The following link is to an OSHA resource to guide your conversation: Health Effects of Heat
The following link is to a Sample Procedure for Heat Illness Prevention: Employer Sample Procedures for Heat Illness Prevention
While each employer with outdoor workers may be a little different, all have this in common: compliant training is imperative to avoid the risk of an OSHA citation. More importantly, your efforts to educate workers just might save a life.
If you would like to review your Heat Illness Prevention Program to be sure it is current and complete, please contact our Loss Prevention Team at GSRMA by phone at (530) 934-5633 or via e-mail at Loss Prevention. Remind your outdoor works to drink water often, follow your establish policies and procedures and last, but not least, take care of each other out there!