Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Changes for “Outdoor Places of Employment” in Effect May 1, 2015

waterBy Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

Employers with potential heat-related exposures are reminded that Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standards were changed effective May 1, 2015. California employers at “all outdoor places of employment” are required to take steps to prevent heat illness in relation to training, water, shade, and planning in their business practices. There are additional requirements for certain industries during periods of high heat (over 95°F or above).

What changes can I expect?

The changes include policies regarding water, shade, employee/supervisor training, emergency response procedures, weather monitoring and acclimatization, and high heat requirements. Employers must amend or revise their employment policies to accommodate the additional safeguards provided by the new standards.

  1. Water

Water provided must be at no charge to employees, and must be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and fit to drink. It must also be as close as practicable to where the employers are working. Water containers cannot be refilled from non-potable water sources (e.g. irrigation wells, sprinkler or firefighting systems) and care must be taken to prevent contamination of the drinking water supplied to the workers. Water containers must be located as close as practicable given the working conditions and layout of the work site.

  1. Shade

Employers must provide access to shade at temperatures over 80 degrees at all times and as close to the work site as practical, and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. Employees should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Enough shade to accommodate the number of employees on meal and rest periods must be provided. Employers must also monitor employees on “cool down” rests and ask them if they’re experiencing symptoms of heat illness.

  1. Training

Employers must train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention, signs and symptoms, and appropriate responses. They must also know about their company’s heat illness prevention procedures, including, but not limited to, the employer’s responsibility to provide water, shade, cool-down rests, and access to first aid, as well as the employees’ right to exercise their rights under this standard without retaliation.

Supervisors must be trained on the heat standard requirements, the procedures they must follow to implement the requirements, procedures to follow when a worker exhibits or reports symptoms consistent with possible heat illness, including emergency response procedures and first aid and how to monitor weather reports and respond to hot weather advisories.

  1. Emergency Response Procedures

Emergency response procedures must include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers. Additionally, employers must offer onsite emergency medical services.

  1. Weather Monitoring and Acclimatization

Employers are responsible for the working conditions of their employees, and must act effectively when conditions result in sudden exposure to heat that workers are not used to. Employees newly assigned to high heat areas (which is defined as 80 degrees and above) shall be closely observed by a supervisor or designee for the first 14 days of employment.

Employers must instruct supervisors to track the weather of the job site by monitoring predicted temperature highs and periodically using a thermometer. They must also determine, and instruct supervisors on how weather information will be used to modify work schedule as needed, and increase number of water and rest breaks or cease work early if necessary.

  1. High-heat Procedures (95 degrees and above)

The industries covered in this section include Agriculture, Construction, Landscaping, Oil and Gas Extraction, and Transportation or delivery of agricultural, construction materials or other heavy materials. When the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees, employers in these industries must implement additional preventive measures. This includes “effective” observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. During high-heat periods, employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours.

Stay Compliant with Cal/OSHA regulations

These are some of the steps employers can take to ensure that they are complying with the Cal/OSHA standards and their updates.

  • Assure a written copy of the Heat Illness Prevention Manual is available at the work site to employees and representatives of Cal/OSHA. The plan should be in both English and the language must be understoEmployeeHandbook_Pop_6467od by the majority of the employees.
  • Review current heat illness and prevention plans and procedures for monitoring employees and amend it so that it reflects the new requirements.
  • Review your Employee Handbook for cool-down rest periods and make sure it is consistent with the new regulations.
  • Review current emergency preparedness plans to make sure they designate an individual who can call for emergency services when needed.
  • Work with a California licensed attorney to ensure that these new updated are included in your company procedures and Employee Handbook, or to create new procedures from scratch.

Employee Handbooks should be updated annually in order to keep up with the changes in California employment law.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s employment attorneys, call (323) 450-9010, or fill out a Contact Request Form.  The Grady Firm attorneys can update your business’ company policies/Employee Handbook, create new policies, prepare employment forms, and explain the detailed nuances of the new law.

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