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Workplace injuries: Time for heat illness prevention is imminent

Temperatures exceeding any others going back 100 years were recorded over the past few California summers. Such high temperatures can cause life-threatening hazards for many workers -- especially those who perform their jobs outdoor. Workers have rights to safe workplace environments that are free of hazards that could cause workplace injuries, and California workers may want to make sure those rights are respected.

The California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration expects employers to comply with certain standards related to the prevention of heat illness and injuries. All workers and supervisors must receive heat illness prevention training. All employees must have access to fresh, cold water, and they must be encouraged to drink enough water -- four glasses or one quart per hour. Workers must take regular cool-down breaks in the shade for about 5 minutes at a time, not only when they start feeling sick. Shade structures must be provided where none exist.

Supervisors must observe employees during periods of high heat, and it may be a good idea for workers also to keep an eye on each other. Employees may be allowed to adapt to working in very hot conditions gradually. Employers must ensure that procedures for compliance with the Heat Illness Prevention Standard of Cal/OSHA are available in writing, and the required steps to be taken if anybody shows symptoms or signs of heat illness must be included.

Workers are entitled to protection against workplace injuries and illnesses and may report noncompliance that puts their lives in danger. Employees who have suffered any occupational illness have the right to pursue financial relief to help them cope with medical expenses and lost wages. Benefits claims may be filed with the California workers' compensation insurance program, which typically compensates workers for these losses.

Source: workerscompensation.com, "Cal/OSHA Urges Employers to Protect Outdoor Workers from Record-Breaking Heat Wave", April 11, 2016

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