What was the high temperature in your city yesterday? If you were anywhere in California, there is a good chance midday temperatures reached well in excess of 80 degrees, which is the temperature at which Cal OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention measures are required to be in place by California employers. Additional high heat requirements go into effect at 95 degrees for employers in the fields of construction, landscaping and agriculture.
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 construction, landscaping or agricultural workers, 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 2015 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, they 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, you all have this in common: compliant training is imperative to avoid the risk of an OSHA citation.
While acclimatization is already underway in all of us, sources suggest it may take up to two weeks or longer for your body to adjust to these high temperatures.
So please, take care out there! Do drink water before you are thirsty, seek shade and take frequent breaks. And if anything you have read here has you wondering if you are in compliance, call us at (530) 934-5633 or email Loss Prevention today. Our Loss Prevention staff offers guidance, reference materials and on-site, OSHA compliant Heat Illness Prevention training.