The heat is on!

A reminder about employer obligations to combat heat illness

Published on

With the temperatures soaring, employers should take a refresher on their obligations to employees, especially those who work outdoors. Cal-OSHA has specific heat illness regulations in place that require training, employee monitoring, provision of facilities/supplies and supervisorial action.

Preventative cool-down periods

Employers are to encourage employees to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating at any time. Any employee who takes a cool-down period must be monitored and asked if he/she is experiencing symptoms of heat illness, shall be encouraged to remain in the shade, and shall not be required to resume work until at least 5 minutes after the need for the cool-down period has ended. The employer must provide appropriate first-aid or emergency response to any employee who exhibits signs or reports symptoms of heat illness.

Access to shade

Under the rules, when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the employer must provide employees with one or more shady areas that are either open to the air or provided with ventilation or cooling. Even when the temperature does not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, access to shade must be provided upon the employee’s request. The area of shade must be located as close as practicable to the areas where the employees are working and must be at least large enough to accommodate the number of employees on heat recovery or rest/meal breaks, so that they can sit in a normal posture fully in the shade without having to be in physical contact with each other.

Provision of water

Employees must have access to drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge to them, located as close as practicable to where the employees are working. Enough water must be provided to allow at least one quart per employee per hour for the length of the entire shift.

High heat procedures

When the temperature is at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the employer should take additional measures to monitor/observe employees for signs of heat illness, such as monitoring employees, allowing employees the means to call for emergency medical services, reminding employees throughout the work shift to drink plenty of water, holding meetings to review the heat procedures, and reminding employees of their right to take a cool-down rest when necessary.

Emergency response procedures

Employers must implement effective emergency response procedures and a supervisor observing or receiving a report of any signs or symptoms of heat illness must take immediate action commensurate with the severity of the illness, including contacting emergency medical services.

Note that effective heat illness prevention training must be provided to each supervisory and non-supervisory employee before performing work that should reasonably be anticipated to result in exposure to the risk of heat illness. As most dealership employees at some point conduct some job duties outside, it is recommended that dealerships include all employees in heat illness training on an annual basis.