California has issued emergency regulations to protect outdoor workers from heat-stress illnesses following the heat-related deaths of four farm workers last month.

Among the provisions:

  • Employees shall have access to potable drinking water. Water shall be provided in sufficient quantity at the beginning of the work shift to provide one quart per employee per hour for drinking for the entire shift. Employers may begin the shift with smaller quantities of water if they have effective procedures for replenishment during the shift as needed to allow employees to drink one quart or more per hour. Frequent drinking of water shall be encouraged.

  • Employees suffering from heat illness or believing a preventative recovery period is needed, shall be provided access to an area with shade that is either open to the air or provided with ventilation or cooling for a period of no less than five minutes. Canopies, umbrellas and other temporary structures or devices may be used to provide shade. Shade is not adequate when heat in the area of shade defeats the purpose of shade, which is to allow the body to cool. For example, a car sitting in the sun does not provide acceptable shade to a person inside it, unless the car is running with air conditioning.

  • Training in the following topics shall be provided to all supervisory and non-supervisory employees:

    • the environmental and personal risk factors for heat illness;
    • the employer's procedures for identifying, evaluating, and controlling exposures to the environmental and personal risk factors for heat illness;
    • the importance of frequent consumption of small quantities of water, up to four cups per hour under extreme conditions of work and heat;
    • the importance of acclimatization;
    • the different types of heat illness and the common signs and symptoms of heat illness;
    • the importance of immediately reporting to the employer, directly or through the employee's supervisor, symptoms or signs of heat illness in themselves, or in co-workers;
    • the employer’s procedures for responding to symptoms of possible heat illness, including how emergency medical services will be provided should they become necessary;
    • procedures for contacting emergency medical services, and if necessary, for transporting employees to a point where they can be reached by an emergency medical service provider;
    • how to provide clear and precise directions to the work site.

    By January 1, 2006, California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will review the feasibility of providing shade for all rest periods at outdoor places of employment.

    The new emergency rules apply to all outdoor places of employment during times when environmental risk factors for heat illness are present.

    Environmental risk factors include air temperature, relative humidity, radiant heat from the sun and other sources, conductive heat sources such as the ground, air movement, workload severity and duration, protective clothing and personal protective equipment worn by employees.

    Cal/OSHA inspectors will enforce the standard in the field starting immediately.