Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Extreme temperatures prompt heat illness prevention inspections

Due to the current and predicted extreme temperatures in California, officials are warning employers with outdoor workers to be on high alert. Working outside in high temperatures under the hot sun can create life-threatening situations for unprepared or untrained workers.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced last week that it will be stepping up heat illness prevention inspections of outdoor workplaces. So far this year the agency has issued 347 citations for violations with more expected.

Cal/OSHA investigators are currently targeting Fresno, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo and Santa Clara counties for inspections of heat-related dangers in outdoor workplaces. Investigators will continue inspections in Kings, Tulare and Kern counties along with other areas of the state.

“We have a zero tolerance when it comes to failure to protect your workers from workplace hazards, which includes the summer heat for outdoor workers,” said Len Welsh, Cal/OSHA chief. “Our actions taken since the heat illness protection law became effective reveal this and our efforts are only intensifying.”

It is every business’ obligation under OSHA to provide employees with a safe working environment. Ensure every employee is equipped with the information they need to keep themselves and their coworkers safe in high temperatures.

What you can do to protect employees from heat illness:

  • Inform employees and promote awareness of the dangers of extreme heat with workplace safety posters and safety hand-outs.

  • Train employees and supervisors in heat illness prevention. Establish mandatory employee safety training so all workers know how to prevent heat illness, recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness and what do to if they or a coworker exhibits symptoms.

  • Provide workers with ample amounts of water. On hot days, there should be enough water on hand for each worker to drink one quart per hour. Encourage outdoor workers to stay hydrated.

  • Set up shaded areas and allow frequent breaks. Outdoor workers should be allowed at least 5 minutes of rest when they feel preventative measures need to be taken. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to do so.

  • Allow new employees time to acclimate to high temperatures. For workers unaccustomed to high outdoor temperatures, it can take up to two weeks for them to get used to the heat.

  • Supervisors must be prepared for an emergency. Every worksite supervisor should be instructed to call 911 and know the location of the closest hospital in case of emergency.

Employers can find more information at the Cal/OSHA or main OSHA website. For extreme temperature posters and more workplace safety training tips visit

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