On April 7, 2015, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the state safety and health agency announced that the current heat illness prevention regulation has been amended. The Office of Administrative Law approved the state Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board’s (OSHSB) proposed amendments to the regulations—the California Code of Regulations, Title 8§ 3395, which will become effective on May 1, 2015.

According to the DIR’s announcement, the new regulations amend a number of provisions.

Provision of Water. According to the amended language, employees must have access to water that is “fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to employees free of charge.” In addition, the water must be available “as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.”

Access to Shade. The amended regulations include a number of revisions to employers’ obligations with regard to the availability of shade:

  • They require employers to provide employees with access to shade when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit—whereas previously it was only required when the temperature exceeded 85 degrees.
  • The new regulations require that the amount of shade available during meal periods be enough to accommodate the number of employees on the meal period who remain on site.
  • The regulations require employers to monitor employees who take a “preventative cool-down rest.” Employers should also ask the employee if he or she is experiencing symptoms of heat illness, encourage these employees to remain in the shade, and refrain from ordering them back to work until the signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated.

High-Heat Procedures. The new regulations require employers to observe or monitor employees by doing one or more of four policies, including implementation of a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with sole employees. The new regulations also require employers to conduct pre-shift meetings to review high-heat procedures, to encourage employees to drink water, and to remind employees of their right to take a cool-down rest.

On March 23, the DIR, in conjunction with Cal/OSHA issued a guidance on the new requirements, Guidance for Employers and Employees on the New Requirements, and on April 6, Cal/OSHA updated its Heat Illness Prevention Enforcement Q&A to reflect the new changes. California employers can find all of these resources on the DIR’s heat illness prevention website.

According to Kevin D. Bland, a shareholder in the Orange County office of Ogletree Deakins, “These changes will be a focus of enforcement by Cal/OSHA coming into the summer months. Employers that have outdoor employees should review their written heat illness plans before the summer heat is upon us. It is important to keep in mind that the written plan must be kept at each site location and be made available upon request to the Division when it arrives at a site for inspection.”