State adopts new heat safety rules
California continues to be a national leader in taking measures to keep employees safe while working outdoors in the heat. In mid-August, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
The modifications address high-heat procedure requirements for five industries; clarify shade requirements, including temperature triggers; and make provision for flexibility to employers under this requirement.
• The state approved revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
• Five industries are specified under new rule, including agriculture.
• Shade must be present when temperatures reach 85 degrees F.
“These amendments will better protect the health and safety of thousands of California workers who make their living under the sun, and I applaud the board for adopting them. My administration continues its commitment to enforcing California’s first-in-the-nation heat regulation standards, and I urge all employers of outdoor workers to ensure they are in compliance with these new amendments,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I commend the board for its action today to strengthen workplace safety in this important area,” adds John C. Duncan, Department of Industrial Relations director. “This is a critical part of our overall mission, which includes enforcement, outreach and forging partnerships to educate employers on their responsibilities and workers on their rights. Our ultimate goal here is to keep all outdoor workers safe in the heat.”
High-heat procedures are now required for five industries when temperatures reach 95 degrees F or above. The procedures include observing employees, closely supervising new employees and reminding all workers to drink water. These five industries are: agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and the transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy materials.
Shade must be present when temperatures reach or exceed 85 degrees F. When temperatures are below 85 degrees, employers shall provide timely access to shade upon employee request. Shade must be located as close as practicable to areas where employees are working.
Allowances will be made for all industries excluding agriculture to implement alternative procedures for providing access to shade in instances where the employer can demonstrate it is infeasible or unsafe to have a shade structure, or otherwise to have shade continuously present. The alternative procedures/
cooling methods must provide equivalent protection as shade and can include methods such as misting machines.
“The amendments adopted today represent important measures to clarify and strengthen the heat illness prevention standard,” said Len Welsh, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration chief. The revisions are expected to take effect this fall.
Under Schwarzenegger’s leadership, in 2005 California became the first U.S. state to develop a safety and health regulation to protect workers from heat illness. Labor Code Section 3395 went into effect in 2006. The regulations include providing employees with water, shade and rest as well as heat illness training for employees and supervisors.
Read more at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatillness. Employees with work-related questions may call 866-924-9757.
This article published in the October, 2010 edition of CALIFORNIA FARMER.