Cal/OSHA Reminder: How Employers Can Protect Outdoor Workers from Heat Illness

Cal/OSHA is reminding all employers with outdoor workers of California’s heat illness prevention standard, which states that employers must implement high-heat procedures prevent heat illness when the temperature is 95 degrees or more.

Heat Illness and COVID-19 Precautions

While taking steps to protect their workers from heat illness, employers must also implement effective methods or procedures to protect their workers from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of this infectious disease at each worksite. Employers should be attentive to allow enough space and time for employees to take breaks as needed in adequate shade while also maintaining a safe distance from one another. For many employers, this will require staggered breaks or increased shaded break areas, or both. Extra infection prevention measures should be in place such as disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, including the water and restroom facilities.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers must provide cloth face coverings or allow workers to use their own. When used properly, cloth face coverings may help prevent the spread of the disease. Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating. Workers should always have face coverings, but they should be removed in outdoor high heat conditions to help prevent overheating as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

Additionally, employers must also take steps to protect their workers from harmful exposure to unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke in affected areas throughout the state.

“Right now is an incredibly challenging time for employers who have outdoor employees,” said Chief Doug Parker. “However, this does not reduce their obligation to evaluate unsafe and unhealthy work conditions and protect their employees who work outdoors.”

Heat Illness Prevention Tips

Follow these guidelines to prevent heat illness:

  • Supervisors and workers must be trained on the signs, symptoms, and guidelines to prevent heat illness.
  • Implement effective heat safety plans with emergency procedures and ensure employees are aware of said procedures.
  • Employers must evaluate each worksite.
  • Encourage workers to drink at least 1 quart of water per hour by providing safe, accessible drinking water.
  • Allow workers to take 5-minute rest breaks at their request or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees to prevent sickness.

Cal/OSHA provides employers and workers with multilingual guidelines, regulations, and training programs on heat illness prevention, which are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.

Read more on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work on Cal/OSHA’s webpage. Review and share DIR’s Know Your Rights videos, with information on workers’ compensation, health and safety, paid sick leave and other labor laws in California.

Guidance for employers and workers on working safely in conditions with smoke caused by the wildfires is available on Cal/OSHA’s web page, including information for protecting outdoor workers, details on how to protect indoor workers from outdoor air pollution, and frequently asked questions about N95 masks.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers and workers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch.

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