Managing Workers' Comp: Taking the Stress Out of Heat

July 1, 2015

 

Summer is official here and the days are heating up! I recently came across a Cal/OSHA update about new heat illness prevention regulations that you may find applicable in your work place. These regulations are effective as of May 1, 2015. Employers who educate workers about the medical and behavioral risk factors as well as the symptoms of heat-related illness, and instill the importance of working safely by proper scheduling, providing adequate breaks, plenty of cool water, and preparing an emergency plan should heat-related illness occur, will be most successful in preventing illness and injuries.

 

Here are some key points from the new regulations below:

 

Certain Industries Must Take Steps to Prevent Heat Illness

 

Coverage

 

The new standards apply to all outdoor places of employment. In addition, the following industries are subject to additional requirements in high heat (over 95°F or above):

  • Agriculture; 

  • Construction;

  • Landscaping;

  • Oil and gas extraction; and

  • Transportation and delivery of agricultural products and of construction or other heavy materials (e.g., furniture, lumber, freight, cargo, cabinets, industrial or commercial materials).

Water

  • Employees must have access to potable drinking water meeting certain requirements, including (but not limited to) the requirements that it be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to employees free of charge. 

  • When unlimited drinking water is not immediately available from a plumbed system or otherwise continuously supplied, the employer must provide enough water for every employee to be able to drink one quart of water (or four eight-ounce cups) per hour.

  • The standard requires not only that water be provided, but that employers encourage employees to drink it frequently.

Shade 

  • When temperatures exceed 80°F, shade structures must be erected if no other shade is readily available. Even if temperatures do not exceed 80°F, shade must still be available, and it is helpful to have the shade erected if the weather is hot enough that the shade can help employees cool off. 

  • Employers should monitor predicted weather temperatures in advance (on television, radio, or the Internet) to know when the temperature is likely to exceed 80°F. Employers are expected to know if the temperature is in fact exceeding 80°F at the work site.

High-heat and Emergency Response Procedures

  • Covered employers must implement high-heat procedures when the temperature equals or exceeds 95°F. These procedures must include certain standards

  • When temperatures reach 95°F or above, the employer must ensure that the employee takes a minimum ten minute net preventative cool-down rest period every two hours.

  • Employers must implement effective emergency response procedures, including (among other things) ensuring that effective communication by voice, observation, or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor or emergency medical services when necessary.

Acclimatization

  • All employees must be closely observed by a supervisor or designee during a heat wave (any day in which the predicted high temperature for the day will be at least 80°F and at least 10°F higher than the average high daily temperature in the preceding 5 days). 

  • An employee who has been newly assigned to a high heat area must be closely observed by a supervisor or designee for the first 14 days of his or her employment.

Training and Heat Illness Prevention Plan

  • Effective training in certain topics must be provided to each supervisory and non-supervisory employee before he or she begins work that should reasonably be anticipated to result in exposure to the risk of heat illness.

    • Note: Cal/OSHA offers training materials in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

  • The employer must establish, implement, and maintain an effective heat illness prevention plan. The plan must be in writing in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees and must be made available at the worksite to employees and to Cal/OSHA representatives upon request. The plan must contain certain requirements.

Affected employers should review the regulations in their entirety for additional standards and requirements. Cal/OSHA's heat illness prevention website features several resources for employers, including guidance, Q&As, training materials, and sample procedures.

 

Have more questions? We are here to help! Granite Insurance Brokers can help employers reduce workers' compensation expenses, Contact Us today.

 

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