Rising Temps Bring Fears of Heat Illness for Outdoor Workers

Oakland, CA —Temperatures at outdoor worksites across California are rising as the weather warms up.

On Friday, Cal/OSHA will participate in a news conference and training sessions to help employers plan for and prevent heat-related illness and death from affecting outdoor workers. 

Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention model includes annual trainings statewide in both English and Spanish. On Friday, Nisei Farmers League and nine other agricultural employers will co-sponsor training sessions in Easton in both languages.

This collaborative training has been held every year since 2008 to protect outdoor workers from heat illness and to highlight the requirements of the state’s heat illness prevention standard.

Next Tuesday, April 16, Cal/OSHA will host a Heat Illness Prevention Network conference call to review best practices and allow for questions and answers.

Heat illness is a serious hazard for people who work outdoors. Cal/OSHA’s investigates heat-related incidents and complaints of hazards at outdoor worksites in industries such as agriculture, landscaping and construction.

These investigations ensure compliance with the heat illness prevention standard and the injury and illness prevention standard, which require employers to take the following basic precautions:

  1. Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  2. Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.
  3. Provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool‐down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Shade structures must be in place upon request or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Closely observe all employees during a heat wave and any employee newly assigned to a high heat area. Lighter work, frequent breaks or shorter hours will help employees who have not been working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.
  5. Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention standard, including plans on how to handle medical emergencies and steps to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of heat illness

Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, said, “We continue to conduct outreach, training, and enforcement to ensure the heat illness prevention standard is followed and outdoor workers have access to the water, rest and shade that keeps them healthy.”.

The most frequent heat-related violation that Cal/OSHA cites during enforcement inspections is for failure to have an effective, written heat illness prevention plan specific to the worksite.

Serious heat-related violations are often related to inadequate access to water and shade, and to a lack of supervisor and employee training.