Protect All Employees From Heat Illness

June 23, 2020 4:16 pm

The Central Valley in California is facing triple-digit heat forecasts all week, and it’s heating up statewide. This comes at a time when many businesses, in response to COVID-19, have added outdoor elements to the way that they provide their services. Of course, we can’t forget Cal/OSHA – in an effort to raise awareness about state heat standards, penalties for violations have been intentionally inflated to thousands of dollars per violation.

The state heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor workers. That includes not just those in agriculture, construction, or landscaping, but increasingly employees servicing your local restaurant drive-thru or outside (socially-distanced) seating area, your security personnel, or employees making deliveries.

COVID-19 Precautions

If you have employees that work outdoors, you have a responsibility to create a heat illness prevention plan with provisions related to training employees and providing them with water, shade, and rest. Some of that may be complicated by pandemic conditions. For example:

  • Tents for shade that once accommodated an entire team may not be sufficient now that employees need to be socially distanced from one another, meaning that employers will need to provide more shade than usual.
  • Masks worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – and now required by Governor Newsom’s 6/18/2020 executive order – make it difficult to breath and harder to cool off, meaning that additional rest breaks may be necessary.

Proactive Steps

If you have employees who work outdoors, we advise you take the following steps to protect employees from heat illness:

Plan – Develop and implement a written heat illness prevention plan. This plan should be customized to your circumstances, and should include emergency response procedures. Sierra HR Partners can assist you with this.

Train – Train employees, including management employees, who work in high-heat conditions. Training must cover a number of heat-illness-related topics, including heat illness risk factors, acclimatization, employer safety procedures, and measures to prevent heat illness.

Provide Water – Provide water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool, and free of charge, and frequently encourage employees to drink sufficient amounts. Ensure that water is located as close as practicable to where employees are working. If it’s not plumbed, employers must provide enough for each employee to drink at least 1 quart per hour.

Provide Shade and Rest – Provide shade upon request, and at minimum when temperatures exceed 80 degrees, while frequently encouraging employees to take a cool-down rest when needed. Employees should take cool-down rests before feeling sick.

If you would like help developing a heat illness prevention plan,
contact Sierra HR Partners today.

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