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Heat rises in California and raises workplace illness concerns

In the early spring we discussed the issue of heat-related illness in California workplaces. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has been raising awareness of the risks of heat illness for outdoor workers. Now, it goes without saying that many California workers continue to perform duties during blazing temperatures in the State.

Cal-OSHA says that investigators are fanning the state, looking to ensure that employers are complying with California heat illness prevention rules. The excessive heat can expose workers to the risk for serious illnesses that can certainly be job-related for workers exposed to the excessive summer heat.

Officials with the California Department of Industrial Relations are emphasizing the importance of employer’s knowledge of the dangers that heat can expose workers to during the heat wave. Outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable, and employers with outdoor workers must follow the rules to maintain worker safety during excessive heat waves.

Employees and supervisors need to be trained about heat illnesses and the prevention of heat-related issues. California law requires employers to provide outdoor workers with cool water and encourage workers to remain hydrated. Shaded areas must be available for outdoor workers to cool down from the heat, and workers must be allowed rest breaks upon request for heat-related issues.

Workers also need to be allowed time to acclimatize to the heat, according to DIR and Cal OSHA officials. Emergency plans must also be in place to prevent heat illness, supervisors and employees should receive training on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat illness.

Occupational diseases are an issue that generally falls within the scope of workers’ compensation laws. Workers may experience heat-related illness on the job, whether or not a workplace follows the regulations. Workers injured or medically harmed by heat-related conditions may be entitled to benefits under California workers’ compensation law.

Source: Imperial Valley News, “California Officials Stress Importance of Safe Working Conditions,” July 1, 2013

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