Cal/OSHA has just announced major revisions to the state’s already strict heat-illness prevention standards, with changes going into effect May 1st, 2015. Typically, amendments that are approved go into effect on a quarterly basis. But the urgency of preventing heat-related fatalities when the agricultural season begins prompted DOSH officials to move the start date up two months.
What’s Changed for Employers?
For agencies that already follow common sense safety practices to ensure workers are adequately protected, the updates may involve only modest adjustments. However, added precautions will need to be taken on a number of fronts to ensure OSHA compliance and create a “buffer” of extra safety for employees. Among other changes, four core aspects of heat safety have been updated for clarification and to ensure that heat-illness prevention is more than adequate.
Natural or artificial shade structures must now be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees—a full 5 degrees below the previous standard. The shaded area must be large enough to accommodate all workers who could reasonably expect to access it (such as all those recovering, resting, or taking a meal break).
Water must be kept as close to employees as possible. It must be fresh, pure, and “suitably cool”. That doesn’t mean making the water icy cold—but refreshingly cool compared to the outdoor temperature.
Heightened caution is required for prevention of heat illness. Employees who are on a preventive break to cool down must be monitored for signs of heat-related symptoms and provided first aid or emergency treatment as appropriate. No employee can be sent back out to work while symptoms persist.
Acclimatization rules also go into effect at the new, lower temperature of 80 degrees. This means workers will need to be provided with an adjustment period to get used to even moderate heat—including a period of at least 2 weeks of close monitoring for new employees.
High Heat Is Still High Heat
The high-heat procedures will not be triggered at the dramatically lower temperature of 85 degrees as originally proposed. The standard will remain in place at 95 degrees. However, mandatory 10 minute cool-down breaks are required every 2 hours and the regulations for communication and monitoring are heightened.
In general, the rules for appropriate planning, emergency response, and oversight will be stricter going forward. There isn’t much time left to perform a review and overhaul of heat-illness before the new regulations go into effect. For help ensuring safety and compliance, please contact DKF as soon as possible.