As you may have noticed, it has been very warm outside. If you have employees working outside, now is the time to ensure that you are complying with Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Standards.
To summarize, under California’s heat illness prevention standard, on days exceeding 80 degrees Fahrenheit employers must:
- Provide fresh, pure, suitably cool drinking water free of charge. You must supply each employee with at least one quart of water for each hour of the work day, and encourage them to drink it.
- Provide enough shade for workers to cool down and rest. Encourage workers to take five minute shade breaks throughout the day. They should not wait until they feel sick.
- Have an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures. Cal/OSHA provides an e-tool with information on how to develop your heat illness plan.
- Train employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Provide cool down periods of at least 5 minutes to employees in the shade if needed to prevent overheating.
Additionally, when temperatures exceed 95 degrees, California’s high heat procedures take effect for employers in the agriculture, construction, landscaping, and oil and gas extraction industries. Employers in these industries must monitor their workers for signs of heat illness and follow other high heat requirements found in the heat illness regulation. Those requirements include: (1) ensure that employees are observed for symptoms of heat illness either by a supervisor, regular radio communication, or buddy system; (2) ensure that employees can contact a supervisor when necessary; (3) designating an employee to call for emergency services at the worksite; (4) reminding employees throughout the shift to drink plenty of water; and (5) pre-shift meetings to review high-heat procedures. Aside from the above, agricultural employees are also entitled to a minimum 10-minute cool-down rest period every two hours.
Failure to provide either the 10 minute or 5 minute cool down periods will entitle employees to one hour of pay at their regular rate similar to the premiums required when employees missed a meal or rest break. It is imperative that these breaks are provided, or at the very least, a premium is paid to avoid penalties and maintain the health and safety of employees. If you have employees working outdoors and have any questions on how to implement a heat illness prevention standard, we encourage you to reach out to counsel for assistance.