When temperatures and humidity rise, workers risk heat-related illness, which can be fatal. Even in years with no heat wave, hundreds of heat-related deaths occur in the United States. Heat is a particularly serious hazard in outdoor work such as construction and agriculture. Californians know this all too well:
Cal/OSHA conducts more than 3000 worksite heat inspections statewide each year. If inspectors find no water or shade at the site on a hot day, consequences can include workplace shutdowns and steep fines.
This is why knowledge and action is important.
California’s heat illness prevention requirements were strengthened in 2010 to include 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.
Heat-related incidents have decreased in California over the few years. In 2006 less than a third of California employers complied with heat illness regulations; last year more than three-quarters were in compliance. But there’s still room for improvement.
HEAT ILLNESS AWARENESS
The body normally cools itself by sweating. During extremely hot weather, and especially hot humid weather, sweating is not enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and heat illness can develop. Heat-related illnesses include:
Workers with heat stress symptoms are more accident-prone, increasing chances of workplace injury. In addition, heat illness prevention helps increase productivity, as overheated employees work less efficiently. In our continuing effort to educate California employers and protect workers, we are holding a free seminar “Heat Illness Prevention for Outdoor Work” across the state, in addition to the myriad of safety resources available.
For additional information on heat illness prevention and sample employer procedures, visit www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllnessInfo.html.