IR #2012-36
August 10, 2012

Dean Fryer
Erika Monterroza
(510) 286-1161


Twitter @CA_DIR

Cal/OSHA stresses importance of taking precautions, recognizing symptoms of heat illness

Oakland—As temperatures soar into the 100s over the next several days throughout the state, the California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA) is reminding all employers of outdoor workers to ensure they have effective procedures and equipment in place to prevent, recognize and appropriately handle heat illness.   

“During this heat wave it is crucial that employers take the necessary precautions at outdoor worksites,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “Having a plan in place to ensure that workers have access to water, shade and rest when needed is the best way to prevent employees from harm due to high heat.”

Weather forecasts indicate that the current heat wave is expected to continue through the weekend and into next week. With no relief from warm temperatures expected at night in many California regions, outdoor workers and the general public should take additional precautions to recover from the heat.

 “Throughout the next several days, it is critical that employers continue to take the required steps to protect workers from heat illness,” said Cal/OSHA Director Ellen Widess. “Making sure that both supervisors and employees are familiar with the symptoms of heat illness and having a site-specific emergency plan are two essential ways to keep workers safe during a heat wave.”

Under California’s first-in-the-nation heat illness prevention standard, employers with outdoor workers are required to establish and implement emergency procedures, and provide training on heat illness prevention to all workers. Every outdoor workplace must have drinking water for workers – at  least one quart per hour per employee – and shade for recovery and rest periods.  Shade must be provided when temperatures are above 85 degrees, and be available at employee request at any temperature. Employers are also required to train employees to properly identify heat illness symptoms.

“Everyone also needs to know how to handle a medical emergency at the job site,” added Widess. “What can appear to be minor heat illness symptoms may progress rapidly to serious illness or death. If there is any doubt, call for emergency medical services.”

Common early symptoms of heat illness include but are not limited to headaches, weakness, muscle cramping and fatigue. Often these symptoms disappear upon cooling off and drinking water. However, if symptoms persist upon being in the shade, or if workers have the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, emergency medical services should be called immediately. Symptoms of heat stroke include fainting, confusion, running a temperature and convulsions.

Certain employees may have medical conditions that could make them especially vulnerable to heat illness. Diabetics, people taking certain prescription drugs, or anyone with special health needs may be at a heightened risk and should take special precautions to ensure they stay hydrated and cool.

Cal/OSHA’s website provides employers with a Heat Illness Prevention e-tool for reference. More information on how to prevent heat illness and training materials can be found in both English and Spanish on Cal/OSHA’s website and also at the Water Rest Shade campaign site. Materials in additional languages are available at the website as well.

Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Unit at 1-800-963-9424 provides employers with free information and training on occupational safety and health hazards and ways to protect workers from heat illness, confined space hazards and other workplace hazards. A full listing of Consultation Services offices throughout the state is posted on Cal/OSHA’s website.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including those related to heat illness, can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757 or 1-877-99-CALOR.

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