Cal/OSHA Moves to Strengthen Heat Illness Prevention Regulations

August 3, 2009

California’s Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has filed a proposal with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to amend the state’s heat illness prevention regulations. This action follows the July 16 request by Governor Schwarzenegger to strengthen and improve the standards to protect outdoor workers from the hot summer sun.

“Today we are moving to clarify amendments to the standards and to ensure that we provide the necessary measures to improve upon our first in the nation regulation to protect outdoor workers from the summer heat,” said DIR Director John C. Duncan. “This package will, among other things, include a requirement for shade to be present at all times and a trigger for shade to be up when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees. It also makes it clear that employees have the right to take a rest in the shade whenever they feel the need to do so to prevent themselves from overheating.”

Earlier clarifying proposals were submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board for adoption as emergency amendments to the heat illness standard on June 18 and July 16, but the Board did not adopt the amendments as an emergency. Today the amendments are being resubmitted through the standard rule making process.

“Our efforts to strengthen the heat illness prevention regulations will continue until we obtain the clarity needed to promote the most effective compliance with the standard,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “These proposed amendments will provide greater protection for outdoor workers and address questions raised among some employers about how to comply with the standard.”

California was the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006. The current regulations require that the employer make shade available, provide drinking water, provide training to both supervisors and workers, and requires that the written heat illness prevention program include a plan for summoning emergency responders.

Enforcement of the heat illness preventions standards continues to be a priority, especially during times of high heat. Since the recent heat wave began on July 11, Cal/OSHA has conducted 176 inspections of outdoor workplaces identifying over 230 violations while checking for compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations. This year Cal/OSHA has conducted 1,971 targeted inspections and identified 507 violations of the safety and health standards.

Since 2005 when enforcement of the heat illness prevention regulations began, 5,588 inspections have been conducted with over 2,355 violations found. The number of inspections conducted during each year since 2005 as exceeded the number conducted during the previous year. Last year’s total was 2,583 and this year Cal/OSHA is again on target to beat the previous year’s numbers.

An increased effort has been placed on expanding outreach to train outdoor workers and employers. The state budget just signed has authorized the spending of $1.5 million to expand upon the efforts already in place to educate workers and employers about the necessity of heat illness prevention.

This effort will help to expand Cal/OSHA’s successful participation and partnership with industry, labor, and community groups. This year a total of 934 heat illness prevention outreach activities have been conducted, including seminars, presentations, training sessions, with both workers and their employers.

The development of a partnership with a coalition of 17 agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau and Nisei Farmers League, also has expanded training from farm labor contractors, to crew leaders and the growers who hire them. More than 4,000 have attended this training series since it was launched in March.

For more information on heat illness prevention and training materials visit http://www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness.

Source: DIR

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