Recent heat waves and the continued rise of global temperatures are reminders that employers in California must develop and implement a compliant Heat Illness Prevention Program if employees are required to work at an outdoor jobsite. This is especially true in the construction industry where employees often work on jobsites without natural shade or air-conditioned facilities. According to a recent article from Bisnow, citing data from the Center for Construction Research and Training, 285 construction workers died from heat related illnesses between 1992 and 2016, “accounting for 36% of these type of deaths across all professions despite making up just 6% of the workforce.”
A Cal/OSHA compliant Heat Illness Prevention Program requires the following:
- Policy: Employers are required to develop and implement a compliant heat illness prevention policy. The policy can be a stand-alone policy or can be implemented with the larger Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The plan must be written in English and any language understood by a majority of the employees on the jobsite. Copies must be made available to the employees (and Cal/OSHA officials) and must be kept at or near the jobsite.
- Water: Employers must provide employees with fresh, free, cool drinking water. The employer must provide at least one quart of water per employee per hour and must encourage workers to remain hydrated.
- Rest: Employers must provide employees with rest in a shaded area as long as needed, but a minimum of five minutes, anytime an employee feels the need to do so to avoid overheating. This cool down rest period is in addition to meal and rest periods provided for under the California Labor Code. Employers have an affirmative obligation to encourage employees to take these breaks and must monitor the employees for symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Employers are also required to provide emergency first aid and emergency response when needed. Employers cannot order employees to return to work until any signs or symptoms of heat related illnesses have dissipated.
- Shaded Areas: When temperatures exceed 80 degrees, employers must provide a shaded area for employees. The area must be open to the air or provided with ventilation and cooling. The area must be large enough to accommodate the number of employees on recovery or rest periods so that they can sit in a normal posture fully in the shade without having to be in physical contact with each other. The shaded area must be located as close as practicable to the work area.
- Excessive Heat: When temperatures exceed 95 degrees, employers must have more frequent communication with employees and must regularly remind employees to take breaks and drink water. The employer must designate one or more employees to contact emergency services when necessary and employers must also implement the “buddy system” so that employees keep an eye on one another.
- Training: Employees and supervisors must be trained on the heat illness prevention program.
If you need advice or assistance with developing a heat illness prevention program, contact:
Matthew Wallin is a senior associate in the Los Angeles office where he practices labor and employment law. He has extensive experience defending private business and public entities in litigation and advising clients on labor compliance issues.
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