According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2014 was the hottest calendar year on record since 1895 in California. Thus far in 2015, the Center has already recorded consistent and similar record-breaking temperatures over the last two months. As such, now is the time for employers to prepare for anticipated record heat this late spring, summer, and early autumn. Preparation is essential to avoid employees contracting heat illness which can include headaches, fatigue, excessive sweating and muscle cramps, and can rapidly progress to mental confusion, vomiting, fainting, seizures and death.
As such, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, has sent out a recent press release reminding employers with outdoor workers of their responsibilities and duties under the law. Specifically, employers must take the following minimum, basic steps for its outside-working employees:
- Train all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.
- Provide employees with enough cool, fresh water to drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage them to do so.
- Provide access to shaded areas, and encourage employees to take rest breaks of at least 5 minutes – before they feel any sickness.
- Develop and implement written procedures – in English and other languages as necessary – for complying with Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
“California has the most extensive heat illness prevention requirements in the country,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “The goal is to ensure that outdoor workers are not risking their health.”
Employers must also take special protective measures when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above. Supervisors must:
- Observe workers for signs of heat illness.
- Provide close supervision of workers in their first 14 days of employment (to ensure acclimatization).
- Have effective communication systems in place for calling emergency responders if necessary.
Cal/OSHA offers additional information and resources on heat illness prevention online, with illustrated heat illness fact sheets, videos and training kits available in multiple languages. The online resources include details on free training for all employers with outdoor worksites in both Northern and Southern California.