Just two states, California and Washington, have specific safety regulations to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illness. Now, California has clarified what employers have to do to protect workers.
The guidelines were published in a Q&A on heat-illness prevention on Cal-OSHA’s Web site:
- Where unlimited drinking water is not immediately available from a plumbed system, the employer must provide enough water for every employee to be able to drink one quart of water, or four 8-ounce cups, per hour.
- If an employer chooses not to provide the full-shift quantity of drinking water at the start of a work shift, the standard requires effective procedures for drinking-water replenishment to allow each employee to drink one quart per hour.
- Water must always be readily accessible. Employer should build their water placement strategies around a sound understanding of the fact that the more an employee has to interrupt work to drink, the greater will be the likelihood the employee will not be drinking enough water to protect fully against heat illness. An employer may choose to augment maintaining a compliant readily accessible water supply by also providing a beverage container (preferably insulated to keep the water cool) to be carried and used by the employee while working.
- When temperatures exceed 90 degrees F, having ice on hand to cool the water is recommended.
- Having shade present is considered a requirement of the standard when the outdoor dry-bulb temperature high for the area closest to the location at which employees are to work is forecast, as of 5 p.m. the previous day, to be over 85 degrees F, according to the National Weather Service. Shade must be up at the beginning of the shift and present throughout.
- Regardless of what the predicted high is, employers are expected to know if the actual temperature is exceeding 90 degrees F at their worksite. If the temperature enters this range, shade must be present regardless of the predicted high.
- Cal-OSHA consider the amount of shade to be sufficient is enough to accommodate 25% of the employees on a shift so that they can sit comfortably in the shade without touching each other. However, if more than 25% of a shift’s workers require shade at the same time, the employer must provide it immediately.
- Shade must be located less than a 1/4-mile or five-minute walk away, whichever is shorter.
For the complete set of guidelines, click here.