Cal/OSHA Continues Enforcement During Times of High Heat

July 29, 2009

In an effort to prevent heat illness and reduce worker injuries, California’s Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is increasing enforcement and education this year on heat illness. Since the current heat wave began on July 11, Cal/OSHA has conducted 167 inspections of outdoor workplaces identifying more than 200 violations while checking for compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations. Gaining compliance from employers is the goal to successfully reducing the number of illnesses and fatalities for all outdoor workers across the state, the group said.

“Our increased enforcement and outreach efforts demonstrate the commitment we have to ensuring the safety and health of California workers,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “We are also working with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and the public so they understand how to comply with the nation’s first regulation to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths.”

Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat. This year so far a total of 1,702 inspections have been conducted to enforce compliance with heat illness prevention regulations and 472 violations of regulations have been documented with a total of $415,398 in penalties assessed.

This year, 10 employers in the agricultural industry were ordered by Cal/OSHA to stop operations at outdoor worksites due to violations of the heat illness prevention standard that posed an imminent hazard for their employees. One employer had less than one gallon of water for a team of 15 employees working in 116 degree heat in Coachella. All but one of the employers have corrected the hazards and are now back in operation, although they still faced citations with stiff penalties for violations of heat illness prevention regulations. More than $45,500 in penalties has been issued in connection with these actions.

This year a total of 934 heat illness prevention outreach activities have been conducted, including seminars, presentations, training sessions, and media interviews to increase awareness and education on the topic.

Training conducted in partnership with a coalition of 17 agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau and Nisei Farmers League, was expanded to train farm labor contractors, as well as their crew leaders and the growers who hire them. More than 4,000 have attended this training series since it was launched in March.

Since 2008, the California Department of Education’s Migrant Education program has brought heat illness prevention training to teachers and administrators statewide who have then educated students and their families about heat stress and their rights. This group continues to provide information to migrant families statewide.

Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.

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Source: CAL/OSHA

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