Keeping Outdoor Workers Safe in High Heat

Oakland—Cal/OSHA is reminding all employers with outdoor workers to review high heat advisories in effect across California this week and to take steps to prevent heat illness.

The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories this week for Monday through Saturday due to a period of high temperatures in many interior parts of the state from Shasta to Kern counties.

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 have a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at each worksite.

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.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers should provide cloth face coverings or allow workers to use their own. Cloth face coverings may help prevent the spread of the disease.

Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating.

Workers should have face coverings at all times, but they should be removed in outdoor high heat conditions to help prevent overheating as long as physical distancing can be maintained. 

Supervisors and workers must be trained on the signs and symptoms of heat illness so that they know when to take steps that can prevent a coworker from getting sick.

Employers must also evaluate each worksite and make sure their workers know their procedures for contacting emergency medical services, which includes directing them to the worksite if needed.

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.

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