Outdoor Workers Subject to Heat Illness Prevention Rule

I have outdoor workers. Have there been any recent heat illness prevention regulation revisions that will affect the way I do business?

The last revisions to the heat illness prevention regulation took effect on May 1, 2015.

Although California is presently enjoying a record year for precipitation with accompanying cool air, now is a good time to review your heat illness prevention program to ensure it meets all of the regulation’s requirements that apply to your business, as California is known to change weather patterns quite quickly.

Shade, Rest Requirement

Shade is now required to be available or provided when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The shade must be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working and sufficient enough to accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods, without the employees having to be in physical contact with each other. This shade requirement also applies during meal periods for employees who remain on site.

Employees are permitted to take a preventative cool down rest in the shade, and are to be monitored and asked if they are experiencing symptoms of heat illness.

The regulation further specifies that the employer is to take/provide appropriate first aid or emergency response if the employee exhibits symptoms of heat illness.

High-Heat Procedures

The regulation section pertaining to high-heat procedures (temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit) was extensively revised with the May 1, 2015 version. The section requiring observing employees for symptoms of heat illness contains specific requirements for observation and communication, and designating one or more employees to be responsible for contacting emergency services if the need arises.

Employers are required to hold pre-shift meetings to review the high-heat procedures and stress the importance of drinking water and cooling down when necessary.

Agricultural Employers

The agricultural employer must comply with the high-heat regulation. An additional rule specific to the agriculture industry is part of the regulation.

Agricultural employers must ensure that workers take a minimum 10-minute heat preventative “cool-down” rest period every two hours when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above.

This rest period may be provided concurrently with any other meal or rest period as required by the Industrial Welfare Commission Order No. 14 (agricultural occupations) if these times coincide.

Emergency Response

Emergency response procedures are to be in place. Supervisors and workers are to be trained to recognize heat illness symptoms and take appropriate action.

There is to be effective means of communication on site, and other procedures to ensure effective care is administered when necessary.

Downloadable Guidance

Links to the regulation, a guidance document, and enforcement questions and answers are available at www.dir.ca.gov. Click on Cal/OSHA, then select Heat Illness Prevention for information.

The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff Contact: Mel Davis

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Mel Davis joined the CalChamber in 2000 as a workplace safety expert specializing in Cal/OSHA and safety-related matters. He worked for Cal/OSHA for more than 23 years as a principal safety engineer and construction safety engineer. His responsibilities included managing the technical staff responsible for developing and revising California safety and health regulations, evaluating requests for variances from regulations, and conducting complaint and accident investigations at all types of construction sites.