Cal/OSHA Implements Updated Heat Safety Regulations

November 17, 2010

Cal/OSHA has implemented updated safety standards for employees working in outdoor heat. The revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard, approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on August 19, provide clarification of the shade requirement, including temperature triggers and address high-heat requirements.

The requirements for shade include:

  • Shade must be present to accommodate 25 percent of the employees on the shift at any time when temperatures exceed 85 degrees, and located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. When temperatures are below 85 degrees, employers shall provide timely access to shade upon an employee’s request.
  • Shade must be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.
  • Where the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or unsafe to have a shade structure, or otherwise to have shade present on a continuous basis, the employer may utilize alternative procedures for providing access to shade if the alternative procedures provide equivalent protection.
  • Except for employers in the agriculture industry, cooling measures other than shade may be provided in lieu of shade if the employer can demonstrate that these measures are at least as effective as shade in allowing employees to cool.

Rules for high heat include:

  • High-heat procedures are now required for five industries when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above. These procedures include observing employees, closely supervising new employees and reminding all workers to drink water. The industries specified under this modification are:
  1. Agriculture
  2. Construction
  3. Landscaping
  4. Oil and gas extraction
  5. Transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy materials

“The amendments that became effective today represent important measures to clarify and strengthen the heat illness prevention standard,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Our efforts in enforcement, outreach and educational partnerships over the last five years have paid off. We have seen significant behavior change resulting in a compliance increase among employers inspected from 35 to 85 percent.”

In 2005, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation to protect workers from heat illness. Labor Code Section 3395 became effective in 2006. The regulations include providing employees with water, shade and rest as well as heat illness training for employees and supervisors.

Cal/OSHA is the employee health and safety division of the Department of Industrial Relations.

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