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Employee rights in high-heat work areas

With summer nearly here, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration held a press conference to educate and remind employers of the necessary safety steps to protect workers from the rising temperatures. Since workers are most at risk in industries where they are outdoors in the summer heat, Cal/OSHA does targeted inspections during the hotter months of the year on outdoor worksites, such as for construction sites and farms and other agricultural workplaces.

Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to train their employees at all levels of methods to prevent sickness due to overheating. They must provide shade so employees can take breaks to cool off, and there needs to be enough fresh water on site so that workers can drink at least one quart of water per hour of work. Employers are to encourage their employees to take advantage of the water and shade in order to maintain their health. Employers are required to have written procedures in place to assist workers who suffer from heat-related illness who may need emergency medical attention.

Safety.BLR reports that these regulations are for outdoor worksites only, but that certain structures can still be considered outdoors if they do not have the ventilation needed to dispel heat. Providing shade is not enough, a structure that catches and enhances heat exposure may need to follow outdoor regulations for their workers. Since training is a large part of prevention, Cal/OSHA has materials available in both English and Spanish and also conducts training in both languages. It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure his or her workers understand the training materials.

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