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Cal/OSHA to focus on enforcement of heat safety rules

In workers' compensation defense news, a high-ranking official with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently indicated that the agency will be partnering with other government entities to crack down on violations in the agriculture industry.

Specifically, Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess informed the audience at the 18th annual AgSafe Conference that officials will be closely monitoring farmers and ranchers across California to ensure compliance with heat safety rules.

"We are going to be doing targeted inspections based on better surveillance. We're trying to refine and improve the targeting and the surveillance to be at the right places where we think there are likely to be violations," said Widess. "Agriculture will continue to be a major focus so folks can expect that during the summer months, we'll have our sister agencies out with us."

Widess indicated that while the level of compliance among employers regarding Cal/OSHA's heat safety rules has heretofore been "phenomenal," more work needs to be done.

Indeed, other state agencies have already spoken out about their involvement in the impending heat safety enforcement efforts.

"We have joined forces with Cal/OSHA," said Benny Chang, a regional state manager at the state labor commissioner's office. "The agencies are looking for employers who do not provide water or shade."

Interestingly, Cheng also indicated that his agency will be keeping an eye out to make sure that ranchers and farmers have the requisite work comp coverage.

For those unfamiliar with Cal/OSHA's heat safety rules, they are rather complex. A few of the more interesting provisions are outlined below:

  • If temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, shaded shelter capable of protecting at least 25 percent of on-shift employees from the sun must be provided and located as close to the worksite as possible. If temperatures are 85 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, employers must honor employee requests for shaded shelter in a timely manner.
  • If providing the aforementioned shaded shelter proves hazardous and/or unreasonable, an employer may utilize a different measure for providing access to shade so long as it provides the same level of heat protection.
  • If employers are able to provide the same level of heat protection, they may utilize alternative cooling measures - fans, air conditioning, etc. (Please note, this does not apply to employers in the agricultural sector.)
  • It temperatures reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above, employers must take care to remind employees to consume water, monitor employees for indications of heat exhaustion/heat stroke and carefully observe all new employees.
  • These rules apply to employers in the following sectors: agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and certain transportation/delivery industries.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

AgAlert, "Safety regulators say farms will be 'a major focus'" March 7, 2012

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, "Cal/OSHA Implements Updated Heat Safety Regulations" Nov. 2010

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