On June 1, 2016, The California Occupational Safety and Health Division issued a “High Heat Advisory,” warning employers to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness as temperatures hit extreme highs this week — well over 100 degrees in many locations. This Advisory provides a timely reminder of California’s Heat Illness Prevention (“HIP”) regulation, adopted last year, which set specific requirements for potable water, shade, cool-down periods, high-heat procedures, emergency preparedness, and acclimatization, training, and heat illness prevention plans. Here’s a summary of the HIP regulation’s key requirements:
Potable Water Requirements
Employers must provide employees with access to potable drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided free of charge to employees and should be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working, unless the employer can demonstrate infeasibility. The employer must provide each employee with a minimum of one quart of water per hour for the entire shift.
When the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, employers must provide a shaded area large enough to accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods and on-site meal breaks. The shaded area must be located as close as practicable to the areas in which employees are working.
Preventive Cool-Down Rest Periods
The heat illness regulation requires employers to allow and encourage employees to take a minimum of five minutes for a cool-down rest period if they feel they are in danger of overheating. Employers must also monitor and ask an employee taking a cool-down rest period whether he or she is experiencing symptoms of heat illness. Employers are expected to encourage employees on such breaks to remain in the shade, as needed, and are prohibited from ordering employees to work until signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated.
This week California is experiencing high heat conditions. Employers must implement high-heat procedures when the temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers must ensure that there is effective communication between supervisors and employees and observe employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness.
Employers must institute one of the following procedures: (1) a one-supervisor-to-20-or-fewer-employees ratio, (2) a mandatory buddy system, (3) regular communication through electronic device routine with each employee, or (4) another effective means of communication. Employers also are obligated to designate at least one employee at each worksite with authority to call for emergency medical services. If no designee is on shift, employers must instruct other employees to call for required emergency services.
Employers should always conduct pre-shift meetings during high heat conditions. The shift meetings should review high heat procedures, encourage employees to drink plenty of water, and remind employees of their right to take a cool-down rest break when needed.
Agricultural employers must also provide employees with 10-minute cool-down rest periods every 2 hours.
Emergency Preparedness Requirements
High-heat emergency response preparedness requirements must include: (1) effective communication with employees by voice, observation, or electronic means; (2) effective response and first aid measures; and (3) procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.
Employers must assign supervisors to observe and monitor employees closely during a heat wave. A “heat wave” is “any day in which the predicted high temperature for the day will be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at least ten degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average high daily temperature in the preceding five days.” Thus, this week employers should monitor employees closely as we face multiple days of high-heat conditions.
To assure compliance with HIP, employers should train employees on all heat policies and remind them about the signs of heat illness. Employers should also remember to re-train employees about: water, shade, cool-down rests, and access to first aid; their right to take breaks without fear of retaliation; first aid and emergency response procedures; and concepts and methods of acclimatization.