With triple digit temperatures heating up parts of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and temperatures in the 80s and 90s in other states, employers need to take measures to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness.
California – a state that’s no stranger to very hot weather – has a heat illness prevention regulation which provides information that can be useful to employers throughout the country. It requires employers with outdoor workers to take the following four steps to prevent heat illness:
- Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
- Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
- Shade – Provide shade when workers request it and when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
"During heat waves, employers must closely observe their employees for signs and symptoms of heat illness," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "As always, workers should be encouraged to drink water frequently and take preventative cool-down rest breaks in the shade when they feel the need to do so."
Cal/OSHA urges workers experiencing possible overheating to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Workers who have existing health problems or medical conditions that reduce tolerance to heat, such as diabetes, need to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a worker's risk for heat illness.