Watch Out for that Summer Heat: A Reminder About Heat Illness Breaks for California Employers

Posted on: May 14, 2024
In: Labor & Employment

by Sara Shok

As the weather warms up, California employers in the agriculture, landscaping and construction industries should remember that they have an obligation per Cal/OSHA to protect employees from heat related illnesses. As a quick reminder, Cal/OSHA is responsible for investigating workplace hazards, which include heat-related incidents.  An employer that has workers performing work outdoors is required to have an injury and illness program that addresses heat illness prevention guidelines.

The mandatory written heat illness prevention plan should include emergency response procedures in the event of heat illness. As with other safety plans, such as the workplace violence prevention plan, employers must train their workers and supervisors on heat illness prevention. Part of employers’ obligations in this regard are providing water, which is “fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge,” so that each worker can drink the recommended quantity of at least one quart per hour. Employers should also encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating.  Proper shade must be made available for a cool-down area when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Because workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time, supervisors should be aware of the need to provide a cool-down area and respond to requests  for cool-down time promptly. Workers should be advised that they should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Finally, supervisors should closely observe employees working outside during a heat wave and any employees newly assigned to a high heat area.

The employer’s overall safety plan must be in place, accessible to employees, and must include a heat illness safety competent. Training employees about the plan is also mandated.

If your business does not have a heat illness plan in place, please reach out to your Lewis Brisbois contact to ensure compliance with applicable Cal/OSHA safety requirements.

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