FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2012-16
April 12, 2012

CONTACT:
Dean Fryer
Erika Monterroza
(510) 286-1161

Internet: www.dir.ca.gov
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Cal/OSHA launches 2012 heat illness prevention campaign at new Bakersfield office

Bakersfield – Cal/OSHA today launched its 2012 campaign to prevent worker deaths and illnesses due to heat exposure in all outdoor workplaces in California. Cal/OSHA’s launch was announced at their new District Office in Bakersfield.  The agency’s extensive, multi-pronged effort of outreach, education and enforcement to ensure worker safety will involve coordinated statewide inspections, local inspections during heat waves, trainings and presentations to employer and worker organizations, and a comprehensive public education campaign through print, radio and other media. 

The Bakersfield office of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (better known as Cal/OSHA) will cover Kern and San Luis Obispo counties and result in quicker response time by investigators and a greater local presence. 

“Despite the fact that heat-related incidents have decreased in California over the past three years, ensuring that California employers are taking every necessary precaution to keep their workers safe and healthy remains a top priority,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “Our nationally recognized campaign, now in its sixth year, has had very positive results in educating employers and workers about heat illness prevention.”

Cal/OSHA inspectors have already begun inspecting workplaces in the Imperial Valley, where temperatures have reached the high 80s. These inspections ensure that employers comply with the heat standard by providing adequate water, shade, rest breaks, worker training and emergency preparations at outdoor work sites. Cal/OSHA will continue to conduct coordinated inspections across the state throughout the summer. Cal/OSHA offices will also launch regional inspections when local heat waves put workers at risk in outdoor industries such as agriculture, construction and landscaping.

“We are pleased that years of continuous outreach, education and enforcement have resulted in fewer worker deaths and illnesses from exposure to heat,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess.   “But continued vigilance is absolutely necessary to ensure these gains continue. Basic things like ensuring  that workers and their employers know the signs and symptoms of heat illness, that sufficient water, shade and rest are provided, and effective emergency procedures are in place at outdoor worksites, can make the difference between life and death.”

Cal/OSHA will again be partnering with employer and worker organizations to leverage resources and extend the heat illness prevention message.   Cal/OSHA’s campaign includes training partnerships with the agricultural, construction and landscaping industries, insurance companies and faith-based organizations.  Last year, in the agriculture industry, Cal/OSHA helped train nearly 1,600 growers, farm labor contractors and their supervisors who employed more than 400,000 workers. 

The focus on educating workers about heat illness prevention will continue this year by working with unions and training peer educators from worker and community-based organizations.  This effort will be achieved through partnerships with the Labor Occupational Health Program (UC Berkeley), the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (UCLA), and UC Davis’ Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.  This effort will build on last year’s success, which generated more than 350 grassroots trainers from 117 organizations who then reached more than 8,700 workers.  Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services will also conduct many heat illness prevention trainings and outreach sessions, many in conjunction with industry and labor groups. 

In addition, an extensive multilingual media campaign including radio spots and outdoor signage on billboards, storefronts, commuter vans and food trucks reached thousands more workers. The successful media campaign will be continued this year to remind workers and employers about heat illness prevention and workplace safety.

In 2005, California was the first state in the nation to adopt heat illness regulations on an emergency basis. The regulations were made permanent in 2006 and there has been a marked increase in employer compliance since that time. 

California’s heat illness prevention requirements were strengthened in 2010 to include a high heat provision that five different industries – agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation/delivery of agricultural products – must implement whenever temperatures reach 95 degrees.  These requirements include observing employees, closely supervising new employees, and reminding all workers to drink water throughout their shift.

For more information on the heat illness prevention requirements and training materials, please visit the Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness web page, or the Water. Rest. Shade. campaign site at www.99calor.org/campaign.

Employers who wish to obtain free assistance from the Cal/OSHA Consultation Services can call the toll-free assistance number at 1-800-963-9424 or email infocons@dir.ca.gov . Employees with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.

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