Cal/OSHA Stresses Importance of Taking Precautions to Prevent Heat Illnesses

Jun 03, 2010, 14:50 ET from California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA

OAKLAND, Calif., June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As forecasts predict temperatures into the upper 90's and over 100 in many areas of the state next week, Cal/OSHA urges employers to observe the precautions specified in the heat illness prevention regulation.

"We have experienced an unseasonably cool season so far but employers across the state should be prepared for hot weather," said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. "Employers need to ensure that all supervisors and workers are trained to recognize the symptoms of heat illness and know what they need to do when they see these symptoms affecting coworkers. Since this is the first high heat of the season, employers should keep in mind that workers are still in the process of becoming acclimated."

In preparation for summer heat waves, Cal/OSHA investigators have already begun inspecting outdoor worksites to ensure compliance with heat illness prevention requirements. Over 650 inspections have been conducted already this year with more expansive inspections planned during times of high heat. For outdoor workers, the hot sun with high temperatures can be life-threatening.

"We will continue to enforce the heat illness prevention standard to ensure that workers are protected from heat illness as we have done in years past," said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. "It is critically important for those who work outdoors, and particularly those who supervise them, to understand how rapidly the human body can be damaged if simple precautions against overexposure to heat are not taken. It is because of this that workers and their supervisors must be thoroughly trained and drilled on how to summon emergency assistance when needed."

Under the heat illness prevention regulation, employers are required to take four basic steps to prevent heat illness at all outdoor worksites.  These include having and implementing comprehensive procedures on heat illness prevention, and providing heat illness training to all workers—especially those who are not proficient in the English language.

In addition, employers must provide their workers readily accessible, clean and cool drinking water and ample shade or cooling areas.  The hotter the weather, the more workers should be encouraged to take rest in the shade periodically and pace themselves.  Workers must also be encouraged to drink an 8-ounce cup of clean, cool water every 15 minutes. This provides steady hydration to counter the constant loss of body fluids to perspiration.

Employers must provide all workers and supervisors with training that includes recognition of signs and symptoms of heat illness as well as a written plan for heat-related medical emergencies. Some early symptoms of heat illness include headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue. 

This year Cal/OSHA has launched a statewide educational campaign that strategically targets the most underserved population of outdoor workers and including messages in Spanish, Punjabi and Hmong. The campaign addresses safety precautions and worker rights.  The campaign's slogan is "Water.  Rest.  Shade.  The work can't get done without them." The campaign features radio spots that began running last week in the targeted languages as well as billboards which were unveiled this week across the state. The slogan and images are linked between the billboards, pamphlets and training materials in order to build recognition of the requirements.

This educational effort highlights the importance of California's Heat Illness Prevention Standard adopted in July 2006 at the urging of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Since then, the state has been educating workers and employers in outdoor industries about the regulation's requirements, the risks of working in the heat and ways to stay safe.  Cal/OSHA has conducted over 600 heat illness prevention outreach efforts so far this year with numerous partners including Nisei Farmers League, State Fund and the Catholic Diocese.  

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.


Krisann Chasarik

Dean Fryer

(415) 703-5050


SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA