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California’s Threshold for Required Heat Illness Safeguards

An employer’s obligations to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illnesses starts at 80 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 26.7 degrees Celsius to be precise). So say California’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) regulations.

The regulations incorporate common sense rules for keeping workers safe:

  • Have free, fresh, and “suitably cool” drinking water available onsite
  • If temperatures top 80 degrees, provide access to shady rest areas
  • Allow and encourage preventative cool-down to avoid overheating
  • Take specified additional measures for high-heat (over 95 degrees), such as observing employees for signs of heat illness, having a buddy system, and ensuring 10-minute cool-down breaks every two hours
  • Provide employee training to prevent heat illness

California’s Division on Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) provides additional guidance, including information on what triggers heat illness, what to do about it, and creating a required written prevention plan.

A heat illness plan is one part of an employer’s Illness and Injury Prevention Plan (IIPP) and must be available at the worksite(s) to which it applies. If a business has a majority of workers who are non-English speakers, then it must translate its plan into the language(s) understood by the majority of the company’s workers.

Expect Cal/OSHA to engage in increased enforcement of these heat illness preventative measures during the summer. See, Cal/OSHA Increases Enforcement (June, 2011).

The OSHSB proposed a comparable set of regulations for indoor employees earlier this year, which has been going through revisions and is now in the rulemaking process.

Employers that have high-heat environments indoors or outdoors should be vigilant about protecting employees from heat illness whether specific rules exist or not and should regularly review IIPP measures to prevent heat-related illness.

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For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

August 9, 2019