It May be a Dry Heat, but it can be a Deadly Heat, Too!
We are experiencing record breaking heat in the Central Valley and across much of California. It is a good time to evaluate your Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) so that you can protect your employees from heat illness and heat stroke. Bill Krycia, Cal/OSHA Heat Program Coordinator, met recently with safety professionals from the Central Valley to discuss California’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard. He outlined the three most common problems with HIPPs.
1. Lack of or Inadequate Heat Illness Prevention Plan
The most common error is the failure to maintain a meaningful HIPP. While Cal/OSHA has developed a model plan, Krycia said that printing the model and filing in the blanks is not enough. Company plans need to address the specific hazards they face.
For example, Aaron Hansen owns The Smokin’ Burrito food truck. He told The Fresno Bee that his generator can’t run the air conditioner and the cooking equipment at the same time. Without air conditioning, it can get hotter inside the truck than outside. The HIPP for Hansen’s business will need to address how to keep employees safe at those extreme temperatures. A plan must also be readily available to all employees. Having the plan “back at the office” is not enough. If a plan isn’t available at each worksite, employers violate the Heat Illness Prevention Standard.
2. Lack of or Inadequate Employee Training
Another common employer error is the failure to provide adequate training. California law requires that all employees receive proper training before starting work in high temperatures. Consider the employee who joined the company after the company held its annual heat illness training. The employer violates the Standard when an employee begins work that could expose him/her to risk a of heat illness before receiving training.
3. Lack of or Inadequate Provision of Potable Water
The third most common violation of the Standard is the employer’s failure to provide adequate drinking water. Outdoor employers are required to provide water that is “fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to the employee free of charge.” Water must also be located “as close as practicable” to where employees are working. Employers sometimes leave water in the trunks of cars parked at worksites. It might be closer to employees, but water in a locked trunk is neither accessible nor suitably cool.
While California heat illness regulations are directed at outdoor workplaces, the Standard may apply to indoor workplaces, as well. The California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board recently upheld citations issued against employers who failed to address indoor heat. We will address the application of the outdoor Standard to indoor workplaces in a subsequent newsletter.
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