IR #2008-46
July 3, 2008

Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050

As another heat-wave looms in many California regions, Cal-OSHA reminds employers to provide training on heat illness prevention

Oakland - Cal/OSHA is reminding all employers to educate managers and supervisors on heat illness prevention to protect their workers as temperatures continue to rise in many regions of the state. The national weather forecast indicates temperatures to exceed 100 degrees in the Central and Inland Valleys on Monday and remain high for the entire week.

“It’s important that employers apply precaution and safety measures as required under California’s  Heat Illness Prevention Standard to all their employees  to prevent work-related heat illnesses and fatalities,” said Len Welsh, Chief of Cal/OSHA. “It is especially important to track the weather and be ready for heat waves.” 

Cal/OSHA investigations reveal that the risk of dying from heat illness appears to be highest for employees who are new on the job and not accustomed to working in extreme heat. The body needs to adapt gradually to exertions in the heat and humidity. Most people adjust to the weather or acclimate within four-to-14 days of regular work levels, according to Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention data.

Raising awareness is an important key in preventing heat illness. California Heat Illness Prevention Standards require mandatory training for employees and supervisors. Information on acclimatization, encouraging employees to continuously drink water throughout the day, and taking frequent cool-down breaks or preventative recovery periods in the shade, among other actions are included in the mandatory training.

In addition to the requirements outlined in the heat illness prevention regulations (section 3395 of Title 8), employers may consider starting the work day early and pacing work activities for their workers. Other prevention techniques include increasing the number of water and rest breaks or preventative recovery periods on hot days and encouraging the use of a "buddy system" to monitor employees in the field.

Employees who work indoors should take the same precautions as those who work outdoors in extreme heat, and follow similar measures under (section 3203 of Title 8) their employers' Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Employers with workers near sources of heat or inside buildings with limited cooling capabilities must ensure that their Injury and Illness Prevention Program is effective and in writing. Cal/OSHA studies show effective reduction of heat illness depends on written procedures, access to water, access to cooler areas, acclimatization and weather monitoring, emergency response and employee and supervisor training.

Under Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.

For more information on heat illness prevention and training materials visit the Cal/OSHA Web site at Employees with work-related questions or complaints may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.

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