Concern for Outdoor Workers Amid Record-Breaking Heat in CA

Gov Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency as wildfires rage across California, with more than 30 burning several hundred square miles, today.

The operator of California’s energy grid, CIS, also declared a stage 2 emergency and said power shutoffs are imminent.

With temps reaching the upper 90s and low 100s in some parts, the National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings and watches for many interior and coastal parts of the state from Shasta and Sacramento Counties, through the San Francisco Bay Area and Fresno, Kern, Ventura, Los Angeles Counties and more.

California’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction, landscaping, and those that spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, such as security guards and groundskeepers, or in non-air-conditioned vehicles, such as transportation and delivery drivers.

While taking steps to protect their workers from heat illness, employers must also implement effective methods or procedures to protect their workers from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of this infectious disease at each worksite.

According to Cal/OSHA, employers should be attentive to allow enough space and time for employees to take breaks as needed in adequate shade, while also maintaining a safe distance from one another.

For many employers, this will require staggered breaks or increased shaded break areas, or both. Extra infection prevention measures should be in place, such as disinfecting commonly-touched surfaces, including the water and restroom facilities.

Employers with outdoor workers must take the following steps to prevent heat illness:

  • Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures;
  • Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention;
  • Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so; and
  • Shade – Provide shade when workers request it or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.