Most Californians know the oncoming summer heat signals a restriction in the amount of time they spend outdoors, but those who regularly work outdoors will need to be used to the heat as it rises throughout the day.
Among laborers who might face California’s withering heat are construction and agricultural workers, baggage handlers, electrical power transmission and control workers, and landscaping or yard maintenance workers. Others who work in direct sunlight, perform strenuous work or who wear heavy protective clothing may also face the dangers of heat-induced illness.
Employers may want to create and implement a worker acclimatizing plan so employees will be able to weather triple digits without succumbing to heat illnesses.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it usually takes five to seven days for humans to adjust to higher temperatures. During this smaller time frame the body’s responses to a hot environment — body temperature, pulse rate, sweat rate and general discomfort – all will increase. However, OSHA says it will take weeks for a body to fully acclimatize.
To ensure workers are fully acclimatized to heat, OSHA suggests employers begin with 50 percent of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, gradually building up exposure and workload to 100 percent by the fifth day. Further, OSHA says new workers and those returning from vacations should repeat the five-day minimum adjustment period. Employers also may be aware of how workers who have been out sick react to the heat.
Knowing the signs of heat illness can protect workers from suffering symptoms that quickly can lead to death. Additionally, those workers with health conditions such as diabetes, kidney and heart problems or pregnancy can put them at greater risk of heat-related illness.
As part of continuing educational efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the dangers of extreme heat, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced a free application for mobile devices that will enable workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites in order to prevent heat-related illnesses.
“Summer heat presents a serious issue that affects some of the most vulnerable workers in our country, and education is crucial to keeping them safe,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Heat-related illnesses are preventable. This new app is just one way the Labor Department is getting that message out.”
The app, available in English and Spanish, combines heat index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user’s location to determine necessary protective measures. Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they make take such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks and adjusting work operations. Users also can review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, and learn about first aid steps to take in an emergency. Information for supervisors is also available through the app on how to gradually build up the workload for new workers as well as how to train employees on heat illness signs and symptoms. Additionally, users can contact OSHA directly through the app.
The app is designed for devices using an Android platform, and versions for BlackBerry and iPhone users will be released shortly. To download it, visit http://go.usa.gov/KFE
More than 30 workers died from heat stroke in 2010. Thousands become ill from heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses every year. Some of the highest illness rates occur among construction workers, farmworkers, roofers, landscapers, baggage handlers and other air transportation workers.
Effective heat illness prevention requires simple planning. Employers are responsible for protecting workers by providing plenty of water, scheduling rest breaks in the shade or air-conditioned spaces, planning heavy work early in the day, preparing for medical emergencies, training workers about heat and other job hazards, taking steps to help workers – especially those who are new to working outdoors or who have been away from work for a period of time – acclimatize to the heat, and gradually increasing workloads or allowing more frequent breaks during the first week of an outdoor project.
Information for employers about using the heat index to calculate and address risks posed to workers also is available through OSHA’s new Web-based tool “Using the Heat Index: Employer Guidance,” which is accessible at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/index.html. OSHA’s other educational and training tools about heat illnesses prevention, available in English and Spanish, can be found at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html .
“OSHA’s prevention message is clear: Water. Rest. Shade. These are three little words that make a big difference for outdoor workers during the hot summer months,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
Cal/OSHA Continues Enforcement of Heat Illness Prevention Requirements
By California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA Published: Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 – 5:00 pm
The Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) continues to focus on heat illness prevention as temperatures again rise to double digits. Last week’s enforcement actions uncovered violations of the heat standard across the state, and resulted in the shutdown of an agricultural employer’s operations for failing to protect workers in high heat. The grower failed to provide shade and other measures for his workers in temperatures that registered 105 degrees before noon.
“The safety and health of California’s outdoor workers is vital and our inspectors are out making sure that safety regulations are followed,” said DIR Acting Director Christine Baker. “Enforcement, while key, is only one tool we use to ensure compliance. We also partner with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and workers on steps needed to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.”
Cal/OSHA inspectors issued an Order to Prohibit Use (OPU) to Canoga Park-based owner Ho Ik Chang, dba Ty Farms working in Coachella, which resulted in the closure of their operation. A crew of four workers was observed in a chile pepper field working without access to shade. Inspectors learned that the crew had started their shift at 6 a.m. in heat that registered at 98 degrees at 8:30 a.m. and spiked to 105 degrees before noon.
“This is precisely why we have inspections taking place across the state, to ensure that all employers are protecting their workers with good heat illness prevention programs. Adequate water, shade, rest breaks, training, and emergency procedures and training can mean the difference between life and death,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “California workers in agriculture, construction, landscaping, and other outdoor jobs are at risk of heat-related illness or death, but this risk is entirely preventable. Issuing an OPU is the strongest tool that we have in cases of imminent hazard such as this one in Coachella, and we will continue to use OPU’s when we find such high risk to workers’ health and safety.” Continue reading
Oakland, CA (CompNewsNetwork) – As a national leader in workplace safety, Cal/OSHA today implements updated safety standards for employees working in outdoor heat. The revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard, approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Aug. 19, became effective today. The revised standards provide clarification of the shade requirement, including temperature triggers and address high-heat requirements. “Today we continue as a national safety leader in strengthening the standards that safeguard outdoor workers,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “Fostering behavior change is a key step to ensure a safer work environment. Our practice of measuring those behavioral changes is one that should be viewed by other states and OSHA as a useful method for gauging the impact of our efforts.”
- Must be present to accommodate 25% of the employees on the shift at any time when temperatures exceed 85 degrees, and located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. When temperatures are below 85 degrees, employers shall provide timely access to shade upon an employee’s request.
- Shade must be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.
- Where the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or unsafe to have a shade structure, or otherwise to have shade present on a continuous basis, the employer may utilize alternative procedures for providing access to shade if the alternative procedures provide equivalent protection.
- Except for employers in the agriculture industry, cooling measures other than shade may be provided in lieu of shade if the employer can demonstrate that these measures are at least as effective as shade in allowing employees to cool.
- High-heat procedures are now required for five industries when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above. These procedures include observing employees, closely supervising new employees and reminding all workers to drink water. The industries specified under this modification are:
- Oil and gas extraction
- Transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy materials
“The amendments that became effective today represent important measures to clarify and strengthen the heat illness prevention standard,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Our efforts in enforcement, outreach and educational partnerships over the last five years have paid off. We have seen significant behavior change resulting in a compliance increase among employers inspected from 35 to 85 percent.”
Under the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, in 2005, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation to protect workers from heat illness. Labor Code Section 3395 became effective in 2006. The regulations include providing employees with water, shade and rest as well as heat illness training for employees and supervisors.
Cal/OSHA is the employee health and safety division of the Department of Industrial Relations. For more information on heat illness prevention and training materials visit the Cal/OSHA Web site at http://www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness. Educational materials including a safety DVD on heat illness prevention are also available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Punjabi and Mixteco on the Calor Web site, at http://www.99calor.org/english.html.