Each year, when the hot California summer months approach, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health urges employers to comply with safety standards to prevent heat illness. Each year, many employees are exposed to excessive heat, and in some cases, lives are lost. The agency’s prevention standards are designed to protect all outdoor workers, including those in industries like landscaping, construction and agriculture. Furthermore, any worker who spends a significant part of his or her workdays in a non-airconditioned vehicle is also at a high risk of heat illness.
The heat illness prevention program has four main steps to follow. It all starts with a written prevention plan to which all workers must have access. Employers must provide training to ensure all workers understand the dangers to which their outdoor jobs will expose them. They must learn to identify the signs and symptoms of heat illness in themselves and co-workers.
Workers must have easy access to pure, fresh and cool water at no charge, and workers must be encouraged to drink about 1 quart at hourly intervals. Adequate rest periods at frequent intervals throughout hours when temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit or when requested by workers are crucial. They must be provided with shaded areas where they can spend breaks of at least five minutes to cool down. Workers must feel free to take breaks to prevent heat illness instead of waiting until they start showing symptoms of being overcome by the heat.
Notwithstanding the Cal/OSHA safety standards to prevent these health concerns, workers who suffer heat illness may be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Many California workers choose to seek the support and guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help them navigate the benefits claims process. The available benefits typically include compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages.